Jesus Christ – the Symbol of “Mormonism”

“[I]f it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” – Acts 5:39

I recently saw an angry meme created by virulent, self-proclaimed anti-Mormons who have a very unChristian ministry devoted completely and wholly to supposedly “Leading Mormons to the REAL Jesus Christ.” The meme, like nearly all hostile propaganda past and present that I have seen, is based on lies. It quotes from four different latter-day prophet-presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints referring to this or that as symbols of our faith. The meme twisted the words to mean that we exclude Jesus Christ and, therefore, we are fake Christians and that these men are “false prophets.” I take it upon myself today to disabuse the unwitting of this false idea and to rebuke the creators of this ministry for fighting against God. 

Art by Michael Malm – http://www.mikemalm.com/religiousart

Firstly, it is disingenuous to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “Mormons” or to our Christian religion as “Mormonism.” Yes, it is absolutely true that we have used these terms to refer to ourselves at times, but they have never been the preferred or formally accepted terms. We have used them because they were the only terms that the world knew. To make it easier for them to find and identify them, we were sometimes lackluster in our use of the proper name of the Church.  

The formal name of our Church was given by revelation from the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith and is codified in modern scriptures which we happily join to the Holy Bible to form a powerful witness for Jesus Christ’s divinity, love, and redemption. The Lord stated: 

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun. . . .  

“And also unto my faithful servants who are of the high council of my church in Zion, for thus it shall be called, and unto all the elders and people of my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scattered abroad in all the world; 

“For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations; 

“And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:1, 3-6). 

The name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” has always been the correct name of our Church. It is the name which sets us apart and makes us a “light [and] a standard for the nations.” While we have sometimes used “Mormon Church,” it is nevertheless true that this term is more particularly used in a derisive way by detractors and dissenters. I have found it fascinating in my life as I have seen friends become disaffected and apostatize that they begin to deemphasize the correct name of the Church, removing Jesus Christ from the equation and settling on the term “Mormon.” Faithful members, however, hold up the Lord and are willing to take His name upon us and be called Christians. 

In 2018, shortly after President Russell M. Nelson was chosen and ordained as the prophet-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he gave an address titled “The Correct Name of the Church” wherein he emphasized the need to never compromise on the name revealed by Heaven. He stated: 

“Let me explain why we care so deeply about this issue. But first let me state what this effort is not

“It is not a name change. 

“It is not rebranding. 

“It is not cosmetic. 

“It is not a whim. 

“And it is not inconsequential. 

“Instead, it is a correction. It is the command of the Lord. Joseph Smith did not name the Church restored through him; neither did Mormon. It was the Savior Himself who said, “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” 

“Even earlier, in AD 34, our resurrected Lord gave similar instruction to members of His Church when He visited them in the Americas. At that time He said: 

““Ye shall call the church in my name. . . . 

““And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church.” 

“Thus, the name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended. 

“What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement. . . . 

“When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives. . . . 

“For much of the world, the Lord’s Church is presently disguised as the “Mormon Church.” But we as members of the Lord’s Church know who stands at its head: Jesus Christ Himself. Unfortunately, many who hear the term Mormon may think that we worship Mormon. Not so! We honor and respect that great ancient American prophet. But we are not Mormon’s disciples. We are the Lord’s disciples. 

“In the early days of the restored Church, terms such as Mormon Church and Mormons were often used as epithets—as cruel terms, abusive terms—designed to obliterate God’s hand in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. . . . 

“If someone should ask, “Are you a Mormon?” you could reply, “If you are asking if I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yes, I am!” 

“If someone asks, “Are you a Latter-day Saint?” you might respond, “Yes, I am. I believe in Jesus Christ and am a member of His restored Church.” 

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. 

“So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s Church, the answer is “Everything!” Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His Church, filled with His power. 

“I know that God lives. Jesus is the Christ. He leads His Church today. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.” 

Can it be any clearer? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true and correct name of the Lord’s restored Church. I declare by the Holy Spirit, which has given me a personal and independent witness, that this Church is in fact the Lord’s. I testify that Joseph Smith was a righteous man chosen by the Lord as a prophet and instrument in His holy hands to restore His Church. I also know this because the Lord taught that “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:17). 

I witness sincerely and plainly that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fulfills numerous ancient promises, including that the Lord would do a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14), that He would give the Gospel to mankind in the last days through an angel (Revelation 14:6), that He would gather “together in one all things in Christ” in the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10), and that He would make the Bible and The Book of Mormon one in His hand to establish His Gospel truth (Ezekiel 37:19). 

It is a misrepresentation to call the Lord’s restored Church anything but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Often, the name “Mormon” is used maliciously like a scoffing epithet by those attempting to distance us from our Redeemer Jesus Christ and paint us as something we are not. They don’t mind calling people of a hundred different denominations – Baptists, Methodists, Seven-Day Adventists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, etc. – “Christians,” so why is it so hard to call members of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints “Christians”?  

Calling ourselves “Christians,” or even “Saints,” links us to the Lord’s primitive Church and it is something we happily and gladly do. When people join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they do so through baptism, which is conducted in these words by the officiator: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” These words come from a revelation given in 1830. I quote a few lines from it: 

“Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him. 

“He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them. 

“He was crucified, died, and rose again the third day; 

“And ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father, to reign with almighty power according to the will of the Father; 

“That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved. . . . 

“And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. 

“And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true; 

“And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength. . . . 

“And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:21-26, 29-31, 37). 

I won’t tell you how many references there were to Jesus Christ in these few verses, but I challenge you to go back and count them. Everything we do in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relates back to our Savior. The Prophet Joseph Smith once remarked that: “The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, “that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;” and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion” (Joseph Smith, Elders’ Journal, July, 1838, 44). 

Jesus Christ is the focus of our faith. He is our Lord and Master. He is our hope and our Mediator. He is matchless in His might and majesty. He is the One we are waiting for to return to earth in glory, cleanse the wicked, and build Zion. Everything we do, everything we hope, everything we are, is because of, through, and for, Jesus Christ. 

The resurrected Lord ministering to Nephite children, as recorded in 3 Nephi 17 of The Book of Mormon

One of our most beloved verses of scripture from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which is a tree that produces the sweetest fruit, comes from the ancient Israelite prophet Nephi, writing around 580 B.C. He bore an endearing testimony that all Latter-day Saints joyfully echo: 

“Behold, they will crucify him; 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. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name. 

“And behold it shall come to pass that after the Messiah hath risen from the dead, and hath manifested himself unto his people, unto as many as will believe on his name, behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again; for wo unto them that fight against God and the people of his church. 

“Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations. 

“And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things. 

“And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men. . . . 

“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 [i.e. not withstanding] all we can do. . . . 

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

“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 25:13-17, 23, 26, 29). 

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which is so hated and reviled by those who have never read it and who know precious little about it besides what detractors have written in anger, speaks of Christ on nearly every page. Of the 6,607 verses in the record, 3,925 speak of the Savior. It is a Christian book if ever there was one. 

A depiction of the Savior’s visit to ancient America, as recorded in 3 Nephi 11

The ancient Israelite prophets who wrote and compiled the record foretold Jesus’ virgin birth, His ministry and the healings He would perform, His crucifixion and Atonement for the sins of the world, His resurrection from the dead, and His eventual appearance in the New World. When He appeared in ancient America, He repeated the Sermon on the Mount and gave other teachings regarding the House of Israel and the last days that are precious. He explained, for instance, that this branch of Israel was among those He called “other sheep” when He said in His ministry: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). 

The Book of Mormon does not preach some other or mysterious Christ, it preaches the same Christ who is Alpha and Omega, the Word, Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of Hosts, the Bread of Life, the Only Begotten Son of God, the Redeemer. I am personally grateful for this extra flood of knowledge that shines such a powerful beam of light on my Lord and His Gospel, confirming their meaning and helping me walk more faithfully and precisely the path of Christian discipleship. 

I bear my witness, for whatever it is worth to you, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ’s Church. It is, as He said it is, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). It was restored by angels who conferred their Priesthood authorities and keys and powers on Joseph Smith and his associates, many of whom witnessed of these truths. At least twelve separate men signed their names to documents and published them throughout the world witnesses that they saw the metallic records upon which The Book of Mormon account was recorded. Three of these men, apart from Joseph Smith, stated that an angel showed them to them: 

“And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things.” 

We don’t need angels to minister to us to know in the depth of our soul that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a true witness for Christ. I know it. The Holy Ghost has given me a firm testimony of its authenticity. And the Savior’s words confirm its goodness, for it points our souls to Him, teaches us to do good, speaks harshly against error and the Devil, and has a distinct ring of truth.  

I know that from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day to our own, the Lord has called prophets to oversee His “marvellous work and a wonder.” The Lord’s current mouthpiece is President Russell M. Nelson. He is a watchman on the wall. He is a witness of Jesus Christ. 

To conclude, the chief symbol of this thing that scoffers and the unknowing call “Mormonism,” is none other than Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His organization restored to the earth. In it is His Priesthood authority. In it shines His Gospel light. In it are true Christians who humbly serve the Lord, love others, and attempt to follow the Lord’s instruction to “go . . . into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). 

Art by Michael Malm

To any who may have sincere questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Restored Gospel of the Savior, I encourage you to either write to me, to search on the Church’s website, or to have an in-person or virtual meeting with missionaries. I also urge you to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ for inspiration. He will not fail you if you are sincere in your searching. Anyone can know the truth of these things if they will but pay the price for an answer from the Lord. God bless you. 

Zack Strong, 
October 18, 2022

Calling All Saints

What is a saint? I favor the definition given by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which explains: 

“The word saint is a translation of a Greek word also rendered “holy,” the fundamental idea being that of consecration or separation for a sacred purpose; but since what was set apart for God must be without blemish, the word came to mean “free from blemish,” whether physical or moral. In the New Testament the saints are all those who by baptism have entered into the Christian covenant (see Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Philip. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:14–15).” 

A saint is one who is striving to be holy and who has consecrated his life to God. In the primitive Church, saints were not considered to be extraordinary or unusual. Everyday members of the Church of Jesus Christ were referred to as Saints. The passages cited above shows the regular, almost casual, way that members of the Lord’s Church were called “Saints.” 

Luke wrote of “the saints which dwelt at Lydda.” The Apostle Paul addressed his epistle to the Philippians “to all the saints in Christ Jesus.” And so on. Peter gave us an interesting passage when he encouraged us all – the weakest among us – to be holy like Jesus Christ. Said he: 

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 

“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16). 

The word “holy” in this last line comes from the Greek αγιος, or agios (also hagios). It is the same Greek word, in the singular, for the plural Greek word translated “saints” in Acts, Philippians, and elsewhere. Therefore, Peter may have just as readily encouraged us to be “saints” or “saintly,” as Christ is the head Saint or is saintly. 

The injunction to be like our Savior was issued by Him during His ministry. The final command of the Sermon on the Mount states: 

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

Why, then, should we single out only some individuals as “saints” when it is clearly the will of our Master that we all become saints – holy and righteous – like Him? Roman Catholics are the most well-known group to venerate people as “Saints.” Catholics usually revere only certain people as “Saints,” yet they acknowledge that all Christians are intended by their Maker to be saints. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has said

“All Christians are called to be saints. Saints are persons in heaven (officially canonized or not), who lived heroically virtuous lives, offered their life for others, or were martyred for the faith, and who are worthy of imitation.” 

Despite this noble sentiment, the statement continues with an exclusive viewpoint about how one becomes a big-S canonized “Saint,” seemingly ignoring its own acknowledgement that all Christians are supposed to be Saints and are referred to as such in the New Testament: 

“In official Church procedures there are three steps to sainthood: a candidate becomes “Venerable,” then “Blessed” and then “Saint.” Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized formally by the pope as having lived a heroically virtuous life or offered their life. To be beatified and recognized as a Blessed, one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required in addition to recognition of heroic virtue or offering of life. Canonization requires a second miracle after beatification. The pope may waive these requirements. A miracle is not required prior to a martyr’s beatification, but one is required before canonization.” 

There is nothing about canonizing anyone as “Venerable” or “Blessed” or “Saint” in the Bible. These are man-made, artificial honors. In the scriptures, no miracles or recognition from the Church are required for anyone to be called a “Saint.” Being a “Saint” is the default definition of one who follows the Lord Jesus Christ and enters into His Church by the covenant path of baptism. 

We can, however, appreciate the idea of living a “heroically virtuous” life. We find this explanation of what being “heroically virtuous” is all about to Catholics: 

“This definition includes the four “cardinal” virtues: prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice; as well as the “theological” virtues: faith, hope and charity. A saint displays these qualities in a consistent and exceptional way.” 

While one may call this type of pious life “heroically virtuous,” the standards listed here are the bare minimum for every Christian disciple. Paul was not writing to an elite group among members of the Church in Corinth when he told them to have “faith, hope, [and] charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Paul was not writing to a small clique among the Galatians when he said that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). 

All of these qualities are supposed to be exemplified by Christ’s followers; not merely by an elite group. Those who embody these characteristics truly are Saints, but they are not somehow distinct from the normal body of the Church of Jesus Christ. There is nothing miraculous, in and of itself, about a person becoming holy and saintly; it is expected! 

Yet, on the other hand, it is something of a miracle to be a true and humble follower of the Lord in our sin-sick world with the “beat of Babylon’s band” reverberating around us. Even few among self-professing Christians ever measure up to the Lord’s lofty standards. However, in Heaven’s hopeful manner, we are all designated as the Lord’s “Saints.” I believe this was done as a deliberate and continual reminder that each day we need to strive for holiness and to be holy as our Lord is holy. 

A synonym of the word “saint” is the archaic word “hallow.” J.K. Rowling’s masterwork Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows resurrected a term that, for a long time, had been used primarily at the end of October. I refer, of course, to the wonderful holiday Halloween (or Samhain, in the original Celtic tradition). In 609 A.D., Catholics designated November 1st as All Saints’ Day, or All Hallow’s Day. In 837 A.D., the feast became generally observed. The night, or eve, before All Saint’s Day, October 31st, is, naturally, All Saint’s Eve. Or, if you use the term hallow instead, it is All Hallows’ Eve. Today, we know it as Halloween. 

The word hallow is an interesting one. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it thus: 

“1. To make holy; to consecrate; to set apart for holy or religious use. Exodus 28:38. 1 Kings 8:64. 

“2. To devote to holy or religious exercises; to treat as sacred. 

“Hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein. Jeremiah 17:22. 

“3. To reverence; to honor as sacred. 

“Hallowed be thy name.” 

When we take upon ourselves the mantle of Christian discipleship, we set ourselves apart for the Lord. We repent, reform our behavior, and make ourselves holy through the Savior’s atoning grace. We devote ourselves and commit our hearts to the sacred, the beautiful, the lovely, the true. Becoming a saint is not about performing miracles or being canonized by any earthly organization, it’s about humbly following the Lord, getting to know Him, and becoming like Him. 

There are not many references to “hallow” in scripture. The most famous is, no doubt, the Lord’s Prayer, wherein Christ prayed: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). We are told to “hallow the sabbath day” (Jeremiah 17:21-24). Ancient Israelite priests were to be hallowed before ministering in the tabernacle (Exodus 29:1). Perhaps the most interesting passage is this one in Leviticus which mirrors Peter’s words quoted earlier: “I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord which hallow you” (Leviticus 22:32). 

We can see from this latter statement that the Lord expects us to revere Him and, as we do so and faithfully follow His commandments, He sanctifies us. We become saints not through performing extraordinary miracles, but by performing ordinary tasks like praying daily, reading the scriptures, exercising faith in the Savior, being charitable, loving one another, forgiving people their trespasses 70×7, remaining chaste and virtuous except in covenant marriage, paying tithes and offerings, ministering to others, preaching the Gospel, and so forth. 

Elder Quentin L. Cook, one of the Lord’s current apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once reminisced on what it means to be a Saint. He made these remarks

“The word saint in Greek denotes “set apart, separate, [and] holy.” If we are to be Saints in our day, we need to separate ourselves from evil conduct and destructive pursuits that are prevalent in the world. 

“We are bombarded with visual images of violence and immorality. Inappropriate music and pornography are increasingly tolerated. The use of drugs and alcohol is rampant. There is less emphasis on honesty and character. Individual rights are demanded, but duties, responsibilities, and obligations are neglected. There has been a coarsening of dialogue and increased exposure to that which is base and vulgar. The adversary has been relentless in his efforts to undermine the plan of happiness. If we separate ourselves from this worldly conduct, we will have the Spirit in our lives and experience the joy of being worthy Latter-day Saints. . . . 

“If we are to be worthy Saints, we should minister to others and adhere to the Savior’s admonition to love God and our fellowmen. 

“Separation from the evils of the world needs to be accompanied by holiness. A Saint loves the Savior and follows Him in holiness and devotion. Evidence of this kind of holiness and devotion is exemplified by consecration and sacrifice. President Hinckley has taught, “Without sacrifice there is no true worship of God.” Sacrifice is the crowning test of the gospel. It means consecrating time, talents, energy, and earthly possessions to further the work of God.” 

Being a Saint means being different than the world. Saints don’t live in Babylon. They don’t do what Babylon does. They don’t think like Babylon thinks. They keep themselves pure and righteous even though they may be surrounded with evil influences. Saints avoid what they ought not to do and they do what they ought to. They live up to their obligations as disciples of Jesus Christ – as Saints of the Most High God. 

An intriguing element of discipleship is sacrifice. True religion requires us to sacrifices things – bad habits, hard hearts, stubbornness, sin, corrupting allegiances, flawed principles, and so on. When we choose to follow the Savior and to become a Saint, we leave Babylon forever. There is no turning back. Those who turn back are not holy like their Lord – they are not true Saints. He taught: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). 

Another modern apostle of the Lord, Elder Delbert Stapley, gave us a piercing checklist that all aspiring Saints should review and answer honestly. After recounting the marvelous promises the Lord has decreed for the righteous, Elder Stapley said

“In the light of these glorious promises, it is difficult to understand how any of our Heavenly Father’s children would voluntarily choose anything less than the best our God has to offer. Perhaps it would be well for each of us to reassess ourselves to determine where we presently stand in relation to the fundamental law of the celestial kingdom—the law of obedience. The results should reveal to us which kingdom we have chosen as our goal. For instance: 

“Do I study and ponder the scriptures in an effort to know the will of God and understand His commandments regarding His children? 

“Do I follow the counsel of God’s living prophet, or do I merely select those things with which I agree, disregarding the others? 

“Do I seek the advice and counsel of my bishop and stake president on matters of concern to me and my family? 

“Am I earnestly striving to discipline myself, placing my physical appetites under the subjection of my will? 

“Am I making every effort to repent of past or present wrongdoings and correct them by doing right? 

“Do I have an attitude of faith in God even though I experience trials, adversity, and affliction? And do I bear my burden without a complaining spirit? 

“Keeping the commandments of God is not a difficult burden when we do it out of love of Him who has so graciously blessed us. The Savior has implored us to “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.” (Matt. 11:29–30.) 

“Our willingness to comply with the commandments of God is a witness of our faith in Him and our love for Him. A rebellious disposition cannot inherit the celestial kingdom.” 

If you are honest and search your soul thoroughly, you may find that you have areas that must be mended, flaws that should be blotted out, and things that you can do better. Being a Saint on paper is as easy as getting baptized. But being a Saint in reality is the work of a lifetime and requires introspection, self-examination, and constant correction. 

Yet, the Lord’s burden, though tremendously exacting, is light. It is a burden that does not weigh us down, but lifts us up. It does not cause our head to droop in despair, but causes our eyes to lift Heavenward. If the desire of our heart is to be like the Savior and to show our love for Him and our Eternal Father, then it is not an oppressive thing to leave behind our sins and to do what is right. Yes, it may be difficult, but it is not heavy or burdensome. The Lord’s way is always ennobling, enriching, and empowering! 

I pray that no one within the sound of my voice will “voluntarily choose anything less than the best our God has to offer.” Why settle for less than exaltation with the Lord? Why settle for less than that perfection which the Lord invited and commanded us to reach? Why settle for less than sainthood? 

Being a Saint is not an impossible task; being a Saint is what the Lord expects of those who follow Him. Does the Lord give commandments that are too hard to follow? Does He require more than we can bear, do, or become? Of course not! 

The ancient followers of the Savior were called Saints because they were holy or striving so to be. They were also called holy by Peter because the One who called them, sanctified them, and redeemed them is called Holy. How can we ever become like Christ, which we will in due time through His power, unless we walk His path of holiness and adopt his saintly nature? 

Nothing can stop us from achieving victory over Satan, death, and hell if we take the Lord’s yoke upon us. A yoke is an interesting device. It is a wooden piece that fits over two animals, enabling them to pull together and lighten a workload. 

If you are one of the two in the Lord’s yoke, who is the other? It is the Lord Himself. If the Lord is pulling for you, with you, and beside you, can you fail? Never! You can voluntarily remove the yoke and go in a different direction by yourself, but you can never fail, though you may falter and progress slowly, if you are yoked to the Lord Jesus Christ who has overcome all things and who is Master of Heaven and earth. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord restored much of His Gospel light to earth in what was foreseen by the ancients as the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10) and as the Gospel which an angel flying in Heaven would deliver to the earth (Revelation 14:6), said the following about the Lord’s work in these last days before the His glorious return: 

“Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church, Volume 4, 540). 

No unhallowed hand can prevail against the hallowed and holy ones of God – His Saints. Are you one of His Saints? Are you voluntarily and joyfully yoked to the Lord? Are your feet firmly planted on the covenant path of discipleship? If not, or if your feet have strayed, I invite you to come and see what miracles the Lord Jesus Christ can do in your life. 

Zack Strong, 
October 16, 2022 

Watchmen on the Wall

From the beginning of the earth, the Lord has called and ordained prophets to serve as leaders and watchmen over His people, and as legal administrators of His Gospel with its precious saving ordinances. The word apostle comes from the Greek apostolos, meaning “one who is sent.” Authentic apostles and prophets of the Lord bear His divine seal, act in His holy name and by His Priesthood authority, and are called, commissioned, and sent by the Savior. At no time has the Lord’s Church existed, neither can it exist, without authorized prophets to oversee it. 

Just as the Church of Jesus Christ cannot exist without prophets, a person cannot call himself to the ministry or ordain himself to be a prophet. God is a Being of perfect order. He does not sanction people raising up their own churches and calling themselves to any position of authority. Those who do so, though they may have the best of intentions, speak of themselves and not in the name of the Lord. Only one prophet at any given time holds the keys, authorities, and rights of leadership of the Lord’s Holy Priesthood. Only one man on earth is the authorized representative, spokesman, and mouthpiece for Jesus Christ. 

In the days of the early Church after Christ’s Ascencion, Peter was set apart as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Priesthood authority was held by all of the apostles, with Peter, James, and John forming a quorum of leadership, and Peter presiding. Who was Peter’s successor? Who followed Peter in leadership? Upon whom did the prophetic mantle fall after Peter was murdered, James was killed, and John was exiled and disappeared from the historical record? 

The Catholic Church claims that the bishop of Rome took up that mantle and is the rightful successor to Peter. This is flagrantly false for multiple reasons. First, Irenaeus claimed that Peter “handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus,” though there is zero evidence to support this. In fact, other Catholic sources variously claim that Linus was appointed as bishop by Paul, not Peter, and that there was one Clement who was actually bishop before Linus. The line of succession is thus confused, contested, and based on sand with little historical veracity; hardly the pattern that God follows in such important matters. 

The bishop of Rome, Linus, and subsequently others, claimed to have Peter’s authority. How can that be? John, the highest-ranking apostle, was still alive. Peter, not having called himself to his position, had no right to call another to fill his place. Only the Lord calls apostles. Even if Peter had called Linus to some office, did that nullify John’s greater authority? Of course not. Thus, the bishop of Rome’s claim to the mantle is thus a usurpation and doesn’t follow the prescribed order, having circumvented John’s rightful leadership. Unless John fell from grace or somehow had his Priesthood revoked, then the bishop of Rome was a usurper and could not have rightfully taken the lead in the Lord’s Church. 

Second, a bishop is a lower position that does not hold the same Priesthood authority, keys, and powers as the higher offices of apostle and prophet. Did Peter, James, or John confer their authority on the bishop of Rome or on anyone else? No. If they had, the bishop of Rome would have ceased being the bishop of Rome and would have been elevated to the office of apostle and prophet. 

Such a monumental act would have also been recorded and we would be able to clearly see the line of prophetic succession from that time to the present, just as we can the succession throughout the Bible (e.g., Abraham to Isaac, then Isaac to Jacob, etc.). Yet, even as Irenaeus alleged above, Linus was merely elevated to an “episcopate,” the office of a bishop, and never attained the office of apostle, let alone president of the Church. 

What followed the death of Peter and James and the disappearance of John? In other words, what followed the death of the Church’s formal, recognized leadership? Apostasy. The total shipwreck of Christendom. A long night of spiritual darkness. This is not surprising, though. It was prophesied of by the apostles as well as by ancient seers. The Bible, and the historical record of the past two millennia, are the greatest witnesses in favor of apostasy. Below are only a few of many examples of these stark prophecies: 

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). 

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after 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 20:28-30). 

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12). 

“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). 

“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). 

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). 

“[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. 

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 

“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. . . . 

“But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 

“And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 

“Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 

“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. . . . 

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 

“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 

“But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:1-5, 12-15, 20-22). 

All of the above correctly foretold the apostasy that occurred after the martyrdom of the apostles and which is still dominant throughout the world and prevalent in Christendom. Though well-meaning, Christendom lacks the Priesthood authority once bestowed upon Peter, James, and John and, consequently, has no prophets or legal administrators of Gospel ordinances. The Lord said we must be baptized to enter Heaven (John 3:5). Who will baptize us if there is no Priesthood authority to officiate in God’s name? And so it goes with the other ordinances of salvation. 

Isaiah spoke of the “everlasting covenant” being broken generally throughout the world. The word “covenant” here is the same as “gospel.” The world has violated the Gospel of the Savior and rejected Him. They rejected His authorized servants, killing them and eviscerating the leadership of the Church and severing the prophetic line of succession. They have deprived themselves of legal administrators to officiate in the ordinances of salvation. 

How would the Lord rectify the situation? We see the answer when we cross-reference these more depressing verses from Isaiah, Peter, and Paul, to a prophecy of John, who affirmed: 

“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 enation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6-7). 

The Lord won’t always permit the world to wander in darkness and to be blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:14). As He had done before in Biblical history, after long periods of apostasy, He restored the Gospel in its purity and set up prophets and the Priesthood. In some of these prior instances, the Lord appeared personally or through direct manifestation. He followed this pattern with ancient seers, including Moses, and in His own Ministry. More importantly to us is the fact that the Lord personally appeared to usher in our modern Dispensation, which is the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10) and the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).  

In 1820, the Father of us all and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to a young man named Joseph Smith, called Him to be a prophet, and abolished the dark night of apostasy. Joseph Smith testified of this glorious experience in his own words: 

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

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

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

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

As incredible as it seems to some, this experience followed the prophetic pattern that begins dispensations. When the earth rejects the Lord and His servants and no one is left to administer Gospel ordinances, who but God Himself or angels from Heaven can restore it? Whether through a burning bush on Mount Horeb in Arabia or in a pillar of light in upper state New York, the Lord always reveals Himself to reestablish the Gospel in every new prophetic dispensation. The fact that Joseph Smith’s First Vision was even more magnificent than other appearances of the Lord underscores the importance of this final Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. 

Through Joseph Smith, the Lord has set up a Kingdom which “shall never be destroyed.” It is the same Kingdom Daniel saw in vision that “shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44-45). It does not appear as a Kingdom with castles and armies and thrones, but it the Lord’s authorized vessel. It is known in our day as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

On the figurative walls surrounding this mighty Kingdom stand watchmen protecting the flock. These watchmen are called as prophets, seers, and revelators. They are sustained as such by faithful members. I testify that these men are true prophets of God who see Gospel truth and receive revelation for our day and our circumstances. 

Joseph Smith was the first watchmen on the wall. The Lord poured out a flood of light and truth through him. He translated an ancient volume of scripture written by Hebrew prophets living in the New World from 600 B.C. to almost 400 A.D. Their record, compiled chiefly by one of their final prophets named Mormon, has been named The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

This book is not a work of fiction or fancy; it is the sacred word of the Lord. It testifies of Jesus Christ more forcefully, more clearly, and with more references than even the Holy Bible. In fact, The Book of Mormon talks about the Bible and confirms that it is a true record – the “stick of Judah” which Ezekiel saw. In Ezekiel’s prophecy, he foresaw that a “stick of Joseph” would eventually be joined to the stick of Judah and they would be one in the Lord’s hand to establish His truth (Ezekiel 37:16-19). 

The Book of Mormon, written by prophets primarily of the lineage of Manasseh, one of the sons of Joseph, is the stick of Joseph. It has been joined together with the Bible to form a powerful witness of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ. Every day when I pick up my scriptures to read the word of God, I hold in my hand both the Bible and The Book of Mormon. It is a literal and tangible fulfillment of Bible prophecy and every Christian who loves the Lord should be thankful for it and glad to have another testimony that what the Bible says is true. 

That volume of scripture which I hold in my hands every day contains still other books of revealed truth that came through Joseph Smith. One of them is The Pearl of Great Price and is a partial record from Moses and Abraham. We learn more about Adam and Eve, Enoch, the covenant God made with Abraham, and so forth. There is also a book in this combination of scripture called The Doctrine and Covenants. The Doctrine and Covenants holds a special place in my heart. It contains 138 revelations or epistles received or written by latter-day prophets. All but a few of them were received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. They contain the words of the Lord given by His holy lips to men in our day. It is what He wants us to know today in our Dispensation. 

A unique doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the scriptural canon is not closed. We believe in continuing revelation through a living prophet. What could be more important than having a prophet among us; a watchman standing at a high vantage point to warn us and guide us? In 2008, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a modern apostle of the Lord and one of the highest-ranking prophets, seers, and revelators currently living, gave a bold witness of continuing revelation. He stated: 

“God continues to speak His word and reveal His truth, revelations which mandate an open canon of scripture. 

“Some Christians, in large measure because of their genuine love for the Bible, have declared that there can be no more authorized scripture beyond the Bible. In thus pronouncing the canon of revelation closed, our friends in some other faiths shut the door on divine expression that we in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold dear: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the ongoing guidance received by God’s anointed prophets and apostles. Imputing no ill will to those who take such a position, nevertheless we respectfully but resolutely reject such an unscriptural characterization of true Christianity. . . . 

“The fact of the matter is that virtually every prophet of the Old and New Testament has added scripture to that received by his predecessors. If the Old Testament words of Moses were sufficient, as some could have mistakenly thought them to be, then why, for example, the subsequent prophecies of Isaiah or of Jeremiah, who follows him? To say nothing of Ezekiel and Daniel, of Joel, Amos, and all the rest. If one revelation to one prophet in one moment of time is sufficient for all time, what justifies these many others? What justifies them was made clear by Jehovah Himself when He said to Moses, “My works are without end, and . . . my words . . . never cease.” 

The Nephite king-prophet Benjamin preaching to his people.

“One Protestant scholar has inquired tellingly into the erroneous doctrine of a closed canon. He writes: “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls its Bible? . . . If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?” We humbly ask those same questions. 

“Continuing revelation does not demean or discredit existing revelation. The Old Testament does not lose its value in our eyes when we are introduced to the New Testament, and the New Testament is only enhanced when we read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In considering the additional scripture accepted by Latter-day Saints, we might ask: Were those early Christians who for decades had access only to the primitive Gospel of Mark (generally considered the first of the New Testament Gospels to be written)—were they offended to receive the more detailed accounts set forth later by Matthew and Luke, to say nothing of the unprecedented passages and revelatory emphasis offered later yet by John? Surely they must have rejoiced that ever more convincing evidence of the divinity of Christ kept coming. And so do we rejoice. . . . 

“. . . We believe in a God who is engaged in our lives, who is not silent, not absent, nor, as Elijah said of the god of the priests of Baal, is He “[on] a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be [awakened].” In this Church, even our young Primary children recite, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” . . . . 

“I testify that the heavens are open. I testify that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is truly another testament of Jesus Christ . . . I testify that the presence of such authorized, prophetic voices and ongoing canonized revelations have been at the heart of the Christian message whenever the authorized ministry of Christ has been on the earth. I testify that such a ministry is on the earth again, and it is found in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “My Words . . . Never Cease,” General Conference, 2008). 

I give my own personal witness that ongoing revelation is a verity, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church and that it was restored through Joseph Smith in accordance with ancient prophecies and by the power of God, that we are led by a living prophet whose name today is Russell M. Nelson, and that all of this points us to Jesus Christ who lives and guides His people. I know this, in fact, by revelation through the Holy Spirit after specific prayers and fasting and study to receive on. I stand by it, even as I watch others falter and abandon their Lord. How can I deny the truth that the Holy Ghost impressed upon my soul so powerfully? 

President Russell M. Nelson mentioned above is the chief apostle on earth today. He stands at the head of the watchmen on the wall. The Bible talks of such inspired watchmen and so do modern revelations. The Lord told Isaiah: 

“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence” (Isaiah 62:6). 

Latter-day watchmen have not kept silent. Since 1830 when the Lord restored The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through Joseph Smith, the Lord’s prophets have raised their voices to call the world to repentance. They have preached and prophesied of Christ and of His fast-approaching Second Coming. They have begun the gathering of Israel and have united millions of true Israelites in the fold of the Good Shepherd. They have sent missionaries into nearly every nation on earth and operate one of the world’s best language programs aimed at helping people in all languages and nations learn the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have declared their witness that Jesus is the Son of God, our Master, our Redeemer, and the rightful King of the earth who will shortly establish Zion with capital cities in both Jerusalem and in America, fulfilling the prophecy that “out of Zion shall go forth the flaw, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). 

These watchmen have warned of Satanic secret societies that would flourish and attempt to subjugate humanity. They have warned of threats to Freedom, such as communism and welfare-statism. They have held up just and holy principles of good government and have repeated the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith that the U.S. Constitution was established by Him for the Liberty of all flesh on earth (Doctrine and Covenants 98:4-10; Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80). 

They have preached against abortion, the willful limiting of children, birth control, the LGBT movement, gay marriage, and anything that destroys the sanctity of the family. They have declared that gender is an eternal characteristic of the sons and daughters of God. They have taught that the family is the most sacred institution in the world and that the family unit can, by the authority of the Priesthood and individual faithfulness to covenants, be perpetuated into the eternities. 

These wise watchmen have further warned since 1833, against the machinations of those who would, for profit and other malicious ends, promote drugs, tobacco, and alcohol to destroy people. Since that time, generations before doctors and scientists caught up to them, they have expounded an inspired health code that involves eating harmful meat sparingly, consuming primarily vegetables and the plants and grain of the earth in their proper seasons, avoiding addictive caffeine, drugs, and alcohol, and which promises amazing blessings of wisdom, health, and spiritual protection. They have warned against idleness and sloth, overspending and debt, addiction and idol worship, tithing to avoid burning at the Lord’s coming, and so on. 

These latter-day watchmen of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been commissioned by the Lord to do the same work that His ancient apostles were called to do. They stand on the wall, at a strategically high vantage point above everyone else, and see the dangers afar off. Because of the revelations of the Spirit, they see a bigger part of God’s Plan and give us pieces of it as we are prepared to receive it. We may also, individually, approach the Lord in prayer and He will give us hidden wisdom and reveal the mysteries of eternity to us (James 1:5; Doctrine and Covenants 42:61). However, private revelations are for private consumption. It is the watchmen’s task to publicly declare the general will of the Lord and the threats facing the Saints. 

To Ezekiel, the Lord anciently counseled His watchmen: 

“[I]f the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. 

“So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 

“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 

“Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 33:6-9). 

By chance, as I was composing this article, I stumbled on a YouTube video by one “Watcher Palmer” titled “The Stony Silence Of Our Prophets.” He happened to be a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He spoke of the perception by some people that our modern prophets are silent, meaning they must be false prophets or somehow fallen. He spoke of the figurative stoning of prophets by many people that has caused them to speak and preach in a different way. Jesus spoke in parables, instead of directly, in order to be able to speak truth to a general audience while also testing people to see who could tap into the Holy Spirit and find out the truth. Whenever Christ openly said who He was or declared His doctrine with force, the Jews attempted to murder Him, stone Him, throw Him off cliffs, and, eventually, succeeded in crucifying Him. His crucifixion had to happen at a specific time and, therefore, He held back, spoke in parables, and was careful with whom He shared His Gospel. 

It is even more difficult today to preach bluntly with the vast censorship of Big Tech and the radical hordes of activists who persecute, protest, and harass anyone who speaks plainly. Yours truly has received death threats, has had three videos deleted by YouTube, has had three groups or pages deleted by Facebook, has had a personal account permanently disabled, and has been banned seventeen times by Facebook. Were The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to speak as bluntly as some of us would like them to, they would be shut down and harassed to the gates of hell. It would greatly inhibit the work of the Lord which is progressing around the world. Perhaps, as in Jesus’ day, the time is not yet right for the floodgates of persecution to be opened. 

All of this said, however, the prophets are not silent. That is a myth. They continue to boldly preach repentance, baptism, faith, charity, good works, grace, mercy, justice, divine judgment, punishment for sin, the Second Coming, the gathering of Israel, the coming famines and natural disasters of prophecy, the wrongs of prejudice and hate, the incorrectness of LGBT philosophies, the importance of the family and marriage, and so on. The current president-prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ, Russell M. Nelson, has spoken multiple times in recent years about the “servants of Satan” embedded in society and has testified that The Book of Mormon teaches us of Satan’s secret combinations. All of this, though perhaps more subtle, runs contrary to modern society and is evidence that the prophets have not gone silent or become ignorant. 

Samuel the Lamanite preaching to hostile Nephite unbelievers.

Just two to three generations ago, the watchmen more openly spoke against communism, socialism, and other overt threats. But today is a different day and a more muddled and dangerous time. The watchmen, from their vantage point, can see the battle raging and have changed their tactics. To think they are ignorant does not make sense considering that the current leadership of the Church are faithful members and grew up listening to the more over sermons by earlier watchmen on the wall. It also goes against the notion of personal testimony. If you, as I, have received a true testimony from the Spirit that the Lord has called prophets in our day and that they are His servants and mouthpieces, how can we seriously think they have gone astray or have become too timid to open their mouths? 

When the Lord tells them to, these modern watchmen, who are even now bearing their witness of Christ and calling a wicked world to repentance and warning subtly about Satan’s schemes, will speak more openly against Satan’s kingdom. Are you ready for the persecution when that happens? Maybe, just maybe, the prophets, seers, and revelators who can see well from their vantage point, know the general membership are not quite ready for the full sifting. Maybe the Lord is allowing the wheat and tares to grow up a little more before He sends His angels to harvest the good and burn the bad. 

In modern times, 1833 specifically, the Lord gave a parable to His latter-day Church. In it, He adapted and expanded upon parables He gave during His ministry. Said the Lord: 

“And now, I will show unto you a parable, that you may know my will concerning the redemption of Zion. 

“A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive trees; 

“And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard. 

“Now, the servants of the nobleman went and did as their lord commanded them, and planted the olive trees, and built a hedge round about, and set watchmen, and began to build a tower. 

“And while they were yet laying the foundation thereof, they began to say among themselves: And what need hath my lord of this tower? 

“And consulted for a long time, saying among themselves: What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace? 

“Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things. 

“And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord. 

“And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive trees. 

“Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the vineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil? 

“Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you? 

“And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer. 

“And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take ball the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry; 

“And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money. 

“Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen. 

“And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land. 

Gideon and the 300

“And the servant said unto his lord: When shall these things be? 

“And he said unto his servant: When I will; go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you; 

“And this shall be my seal and blessing upon you—a faithful and wise steward in the midst of mine house, a ruler in my kingdom. 

“And his servant went straightway, and did all things whatsoever his lord commanded him; and after many days all things were fulfilled. 

“Again, verily I say unto you, I will show unto you wisdom in me concerning all the churches, inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation— 

“That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled. 

“Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be; 

“While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:43-66). 

The time of reaping is upon us. The watchmen really are upon the tower. They can see the enemy and they see his troop movements and strategies. They stand upon the walls watching and warning. Their warnings have been variously blunt and subtle, but they are steady and sure. Our problem is that we have not fixed our eyes upon them and we have missed their warnings. 

Yet, they are the Lord’s spokesmen. He called them. He commissioned them. He gave them His Priesthood. He directs them and reveals His will to them and they give it to us when it is the right time and when we are prepared for it. 

The man leading the earthly watchmen and who stands on the highest tower of the Lord’s Kingdom is President Russell M. Nelson. This wizened sage recently celebrated his 98th-birthday and is still sharp as a tack, healthy, and vibrant. He will be speaking this upcoming weekend to the world. I know he is a prophet. He is a true watchman. 

Dear reader, would you like to hear from the Lord’s watchmen? Could you or your loved ones benefit from their wisdom? Do you yearn to know the current will and word of the Lord to mankind and the things He wishes to emphasize at this exact moment of time? If the answer is yes, you are invited to join with me and millions of other individuals in dozens of nations as we watch General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this upcoming October 1 and 2. General Conference is a semi-annual gathering of the entire leadership and membership of the Church, and all who want “come and see” (John 1:39). 

Most of my readers are not members of my faith. I extend the hand of fellowship to you and invite you to investigate what we have to offer and how we can add to your faith and knowledge of the Lord. You don’t have to give up the Bible or anything good and true and worthy you have; we love the Bible and happily embrace all good things, gifts, and truths. We simply want to add upon it and to help you live a richer and more abundant life. 

President Russell M. Nelson

As you investigate us, you will definitely find apostate and bad members in our Church, as you do in all faiths. However, despite the tares whom the Lord in mercy is still allowing to grow up side by side with the wheat, we profess the name of the Lord, we teach of His Atonement, we traverse the world teaching Jesus Christ’s Gospel to all who will listen, we profess the virtues of chastity and modesty and morality, we promote the family and marriage between man and woman, we defend the sanctity of life, we uphold the U.S. Constitution with its timeless principles of personal and public Liberty, we stand against secret societies and Satanic schemes, we proclaim that the Heavens are open and that each man and woman may receive personal revelation and confirmations by the Spirit of the truth, and, significantly, we have prophets and apostles to lead us as in the true Church of Jesus Christ established personally by the hand of the Lord in His day. 

I testify that the watchmen are on the wall. They are awake and aware. It is all-hands-on-deck. They have been divinely commissioned to perform a task, empowered by the Lord who directs them, and stand as beacons of light for the world. Their light is a mere reflection of the Light of the World, who is Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior, and King. President Russell M. Nelson stands at the head of this great work. He will also stand to address the world in two short days. Please tune in to see what the Lord’s prophet would have you know and do and then act in faith on any impressions the Holy Ghost might give you. 

Zack Strong, 
September 29, 2022

Find a Church or Find the Church? 

I often hear pastors and parishioners of all stripes encourage people to “find a church” they like. I want to take a moment today to ask these doubtless honest Christians if perhaps they should not instead be encouraging folks to “find the Church” of Jesus Christ

One of the major flaws I see in Christendom is the unscriptural idea that it doesn’t matter which church you belong to so long as you believe in Christ. One denomination is as good as the next for the believer who has Christ in his heart – this is the attitude. Arguably, more Christians have been lulled to sleep or led into crooked paths by this false doctrine than by any other.

I sometimes wonder how an “any-denomination-is-fine” Christian feels when he reads scriptural declarations like the following: 

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 

“One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). 

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 

“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-8). 

“I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 

“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 

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

“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? . . . . 

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

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 

“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 12:13-15, 18, 27-28). 

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). 

“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. 

“And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. 

“And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. 

“And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. 

“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them” (Luke 9:1-6). 

“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. . . . 

“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. . . .  

“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:1, 17, 19). 

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). 

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

“Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 

“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” (Acts 8:17-20). 

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon fa rock: 

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27). 

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 

“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one call things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:9-10). 

“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 enation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). 

“[A]t the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 

“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). 

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 

“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 

“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23). 

“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30). 

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 

“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

There is nothing in these rather straightforward verses that suggests that the Lord’s Church is divided into numerous opposing denominations with contradictory doctrines, leaderships, priesthoods, translations and interpretations of scripture, and ordinances. There is nothing that implies one church is as good as the next, that multiple churches may exist and be equally valid at the same time, or that it doesn’t matter which church you belong to. 

Instead, I see nothing but unity – unity of leadership, authority, organization, doctrine, and membership. I see the word “one” several times, not only implying unity of spirit and intention, but unity of doctrine, structure, and Church body. 

In these prophetic passages, I see references to prophets, apostles, seventies, approved Priesthood authority, and ordinance work carried out by those holding said Priesthood authority. I see citations stating clearly that the Lord will not accept everyone just because they claim to be His followers. I see clear reference to certain ordinances, like baptism, that are required to enter Heaven. I see order, unity, and oneness. 

In light of the fact that the Lord’s Church was not divided in His day or in the time of the Twelve Apostles, is it reasonable to think it should be divided today? If baptism was necessary in Christ’s day, why would it not be necessary today? If the Savior called apostles, prophets, and other authorized servants to preach His Gospel and perform ordinances, are we so arrogant to toss out this system today? If the ancient apostles said there is only “one faith” and described all Christian believers as being linked together in “one body” under prophets and apostles, how can we honestly subscribe to anything different and yet still claim to be Biblical Christians? 

This brings up another problem – the Bible itself. The Bible is the word of God. There is no doubt about it. However, there are myriad translations of that holy book. And there are even more interpretations of its passages, each different from the next. It is utterly impossible, then, to simply read the Bible and use our own reason to comprehend which of all the 45,000 different sects is the “one.” We need a higher and holier witness. 

That witness comes only from God through the Holy Spirit. Recall that when Jesus asked His Apostles who they thought He was, Peter responded: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;” to which the Lord responded: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). 

It was not enough for Peter to walk with the Savior and witness His miracles, hear His teachings fall from His lips, or feel His divine presence. Peter needed to gain a witness from the Holy Ghost. All of us must also receive a witness from the Holy Spirit or we remain in ignorance and can never testify that we know the truth. 

Through the Holy Spirit, we can learn not only that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, but which church of all the thousands that exist is His Church containing His authority, ordinances, and doctrines that are necessary for salvation through His blood. 

Most of my friends and acquaintances are not members of the Church I belong to. Some are not members of any church and are not religious at all. I still love them and treat them the same as anyone. We are all at different points on our journey of finding the Lord’s one true path or working our way down it. That said, I can’t close this article without sharing my personal witness and testimony of what I have come to know through the same Spirit that confirmed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ. 

I know by virtue of the Holy Ghost that Jesus of Nazareth was the premortal Jehovah, the Creator of earth, and the Lord of lords. I know that He lived a sinless life, that He atoned for my sins and for yours, and that He was crucified as the final sacrifice to fulfill the ancient law He gave to Israel. I know that He rose from the tomb three days later and stands today with a resurrected body at the right hand of God the Father. 

I also testify that I know through the Holy Spirit that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s “one” Church. While we can learn many things from many churches, and while numerous good and upright believers exist in other organizations, only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the Priesthood authority to officiate in saving ordinances. 

I witness that this Church was revealed from Heaven by an appearance of the Father and Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith and that numerous angels subsequently brought additional knowledge, Bible-supporting scripture, and keys of authority. I testify that three of these divine figures were the Apostles Peter, James, and John, who conferred their keys, rights, and authority of the Lord’s Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829 and that it has continued in unbroken succession to President Russell M. Nelson who presides as prophet, seer, and revelator over the Lord’s Church. 

I give my personal, sacred witness that the “everlasting gospel” that John saw being delivered to men on earth (Revelation 14:6) was this same Gospel of Christ restored through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith in these last days. I witness that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a volume of holy scripture that substantiates the Bible’s testimony of Jesus and points people’s souls to Him, calling them to repentance, faith, and good works. 

I know that Jesus is the Christ, my Savior, Master, and King. I invite all to come to Him, to seek knowledge from the Holy Spirit, and to investigate the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ which has brought so much conviction and satisfaction to my soul. It is time to not only find a church, no matter how lovely and enlightened it may be, but to find and join ourselves to the Church of Jesus Christ. 

Zack Strong, 
June 12, 2022

Spiritual Communication

The function of satellite dishes gives us some insight into how spiritual communication works. A website gives a technical explanation of how satellites and dishes function:

“A satellite dish works in the same way as the reflector for a torch or car headlights. A signal is produced or reflected from a focal point. This signal then reflects off the large part of the satellite dish and travels towards the satellite.

“At the satellite, the signal reflects off another curved reflector towards a focal point where the signal is received. The signal is then amplified and sent back towards Earth using a different frequency.

Another website describes the necessary conditions for a satellite dish to work properly:

“There has to be a direct line of signal from the dish to the satellite in the sky to work . . . there can be no obstructions of any kind between the satellite and dish. The dish must be located in an area clear of trees, bushes, buildings or any other objects. It has to be mounted securely and completely level to function correctly. It must be set to the precise elevation degree needed.”

A third site explains why a satellite dish might not work:

“Satellite dishes need to be aligned very accurately to get a signal, because of the way the work and the frequencies that they use. It is not easy to align a satellite dish by eyesight alone or by looking at the direction of the neighbour’s satellite dish. An adjustment of a millimetre of two can be the difference between a good reliable satellite signal and no signal at all.”

What did you glean from these descriptions of satellite dishes? There may be more points of value, but I’ve chosen to mention five.

First, a signal must be produced by a satellite dish and be beamed into space.

Second, the signal must be aligned to a specific frequency and aimed at the correct location.

Third, the signal must be unobstructed.

Fourth, the signal cannot be borrowed from another dish or be the result of guesswork.

Fifth, the signal must be aligned correctly not only to send, but also to receive, a signal.

These lessons apply beautifully to personal prayer. Consider our five points in order.

First, prayer, in order to function, requires a person to pray. The prayer may be silent or spoken aloud, but it must be uttered intentionally by the individual. The Bible Dictionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says that “prayer is a form of work” (Bible Dictionary, 753). Truly it is. In order to receive dividends, one must first put in the “work.” In order to receive an answer from prayer, you must first pray. Send your personal petitions, desires, concerns Heavenward just as a satellite dish sends a signal skyward. This is the first step to receiving an answer from God, just as a satellite beaming a signal to space is a prerequisite to receiving a signal and projecting an intelligible picture onto your TV.

Second, a satellite won’t function if it’s tuned into the wrong frequency. Your prayers, if not aligned to the proper spiritual frequency – a frequency defined and set forth in revealed scripture – won’t be very profitable. The Lord isn’t so concerned with the verbiage one uses in his prayers, and has consequently never instituted set prayers except in specific instances regarding collective rites. However, He is concerned about the petitioner demonstrating proper principles, patterns, and attitudes.

For instance, a normal personal prayer should be addressed to God our Father and conclude in the name of Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:9). The prayer should be offered in childlike humility and with expectant faith, such as when Jesus, when praying before His disciples, said to the Father “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). They should be sincere and from the heart, not rote and repetitious (Matthew 6:7. Prayer should be a personal exercise hidden away from the world, not a self-serving spectacle for public consumption (Matthew 6:6, 16-21).

When your prayers are dialed into the correct spiritual frequency and our attitudes are properly sincere and humble, your prayers begin to reach the ears of your Father in Heaven who is eagerly waiting for you to learn how to approach Him, communicate with Him, and receive knowledge from His Spirit. Citing the Bible Dictionary again, it’s important to note that a huge factor in having the correct attitude for effective prayer hinges upon our understanding that we are the literal spirit children of the Heavenly Being to whom we’re praying:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other” (Bible Dictionary, 752-753).

A little girl says her evening prayers by her bedside, accompanied by her dolls (including a Golliwog). Date: 1908

If we don’t want our prayers to bounce off the ceiling, as it were, we must remember who we are, that God is not some distant Being but a personal and very near Father who loves us, and that speaking to Him should be as normal as speaking to our earthly parents. When I served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia, I sometimes encountered people who had never prayed before. Never. Not once. On one such occasion, after teaching a young man that God was His literal Father and that He should be approached in a familial and familiar manner, this childlike Russian began his first prayer: “Good day, Father.” It was a touching moment. That prayer absolutely reached Heaven. Every prayer tuned into the frequency of sincerity, humility, and familial love, will be heard and answered.

Third, just as a satellite dish won’t work if cluttered by branches or covered in snow or rain, distracted and cluttered prayers have diminished capacity. If we rush our prayers, fail to pray sincerely or humbly, or have hardened and cold hearts that would rather be doing something else, can we honestly expect to receiving amazing answers from God? He has given us a pattern for right living. If we disregard this pattern and disobey His commandments, we can’t help but reap a negative reward. Part of that ignominious reward is unanswered prayers and a break in the sweet communication with the Spirit of God.

Let’s be more explicit. If we watch porn, drink alcohol, harm another, quarrel with our spouse, or any other number of sinful behaviors, and then attempt to pray without regretting our actions, confessing them, and petitioning for forgiveness and the strength to be better, can we expect to be heard of God? You can answer for yourself.

I want to be clear, prayer is for sinners. We’re all sinners. Prayer is for the weak. We’re all weak sometimes. Prayer is for people who fall short. We’re all in that category. If we make a mistake, let a curse word slip, let our temper flare up, view an inappropriate video online, flip someone the bird in a fit of road rage, or any other number of misdeeds, prayers is actually the best thing we can do! That is, prayer is the best thing we can do in our lowest and most shameful moments if we sincerely regret our actions, do our best to repair the damage, and confess in full to the Lord and anyone else to whom it may be necessary.

A great man of God, a prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ, Lorenzo Snow, gave this encouragement:

“If we could read in detail the life of Abraham or the lives of other great and holy men we would doubtless find that their efforts to be righteous were not always crowned with success. Hence we should not be discouraged if we should be overcome in a weak moment; but, on the contrary, straightway repent of the error or the wrong we may have committed, and as far as possible repair it, and then seek to God for renewed strength to go on and do better. . . .

“. . . We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged whenever we discover our weakness. We can scarcely find an instance in all the glorious examples set us by the prophets, ancient or modern, wherein they permitted the Evil One to discourage them; but on the other hand they constantly sought to overcome, to win the prize and thus prepare themselves for a fulness of glory” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 100-101).

If we find that our prayers are too distracted or rushed or if we know that our conduct has not lived up to the standards outlined in the holy scriptures, then the solution is, ironically, prayer. A sincere prayer asking for forgiveness and the strength to be better is worth more than most people comprehend. The moment we intentionally take a step back our Eternal Father, He sees the effort and runs to us, just as the father ran to his dejected and battered prodigal son (Luke 15:18-24).

Some of the best prayers of my life have been uttered in the aftermath of some stupid mistake on my part. It never ceases to amaze me how willing my Father is to run to me in my moments of weakness and error when I simply turn my heart to Him and attempt to pray from the bottom of my heart. However, I also testify that prayers have even more power when backed up by personal purity; for, as James said, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Fourth, just as one satellite dish cannot borrow a signal from another, we cannot live on borrowed Gospel light. We can’t subsist on other people’s prayers. Having other people pray in your behalf is wonderful, but their petitions can’t substitute for your own personal, private prayers. The prayer of a priest at a public meeting is insufficient. The prayer of a friend in a prayer circle is insufficient. The prayer of a spouse before bedtime is insufficient.

Our prayers must be be our own. They can’t be written for us by another. They can’t be read from a book. They can’t be regurgitated from memory. True prayer is specific, individualistic, and genuine. We must learn to send our authentic communications, longings, questions, desires, apprehensions, and concerns to our Father in Heaven. What troubles John across the street or Sarah down the road might not matter or apply to you. Your Father wants to know what matters to you. He wants to know what troubles you. He wants to know what questions you have for Him and what you need and desire in your life.

When we pray, we may fumble with our words; there’s no harm in that. Moses suffered from a speech impediment. Yet, he became an effective communicator through the medium of prayer. He poured out His mind and spirit to His God and His Redeemer and was blessed with miracles, revelations, and power. Our minds and hearts must be similarly bowed in an attitude of humility and sincerity. Our words must be our own and come from the heart. When our prayers come from the depth of our souls, they’ll find the right signal and won’t have to borrow anything from anyone. A personal conduit to Heaven will be opened that will, if you keep it open by righteous living, be a source of continual light and knowledge, comfort and love.

Fifth, just as a satellite has to be properly lined up in order to beam its signal to space, it must be aligned aright in order to receive a correct signal. Prayer is the same. Prayer is not a one-way form of communication. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

“Pray to the Lord with the expectation of answers. . . . The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isa. 1:18)” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 114).

Thinking of prayer like a two-way phone call can be helpful. If your environment is too loud, how effective is speaking on the phone? If raucous music or revelry drowns out the voices, how effective is a phone call? Many things can impede our ability to communicate with our Father. By the same token, many things can block His messages to us. Impurity, anger, insincerity, selfishness, hatred, ignorance, raucous music, irreverence, and a hundred other things, can deaden our spirits and diminish our ability to hear our Father’s communications, answers, and words.

The Holy Spirit is a bit finicky. He doesn’t like inappropriate situations, deafening music, cursing, immorality, anger, fighting, or violence. He avoids circumstances where He would expose Himself to these degrading influences. If we, therefore, put ourselves in these circumstances, how can we expect to hear the sensitive communications of the Spirit? How can we truly hear our Father if we’re surrounded by evil? How can we hear the small voice of the Spirit if we’re drowning it out with profane behavior?

Undoubtedly, this fifth step in the prayer process is the hardest. It’s been the struggle of my life to find out how the Lord speaks to me. He speaks differently to everyone. To one person, He speaks through dreams. To another, He uses His own voice. To another, He imparts subtle thoughts, hints, and feelings. Just as each person is different, so, too, is Heaven’s voice tailored to us as individuals. It’s our job to make sure our spiritual satellite dish isn’t cluttered or misaligned. If we want to receive information from God, we must be in tune with Him and His laws. There’s no other way.

I’ve drawn much inspiration from the rough-around-the-edges pioneer prophet Brigham Young. His heartfelt advice on prayer stirs me. I think you might benefit from it, too. I quote several of his statements, taking them from chapter three of John A. Widtsoe’s book Discourses of Brigham Young:

“Let every man and every woman call upon the name of the Lord, and that, too, from a pure heart, while they are at work as well as in their closet, while they are in public as well as while they are in private, asking the Father m the name of Jesus, to bless them, and to preserve and guide in, and to teach them, the way of life and salvation and to enable them so to live that they will obtain this eternal salvation that we are after.”

“When you get up in the morning, before you suffer yourselves to eat one mouthful of food, call your wife and children together, bow down before the Lord, ask him to forgive your sins, and protect you through the day, to preserve you from temptation and all evil, to guide your steps aright, that you may do something that day that shall be beneficial to the Kingdom of God on the earth. Have you time to do this? Elders, sisters, have you time to pray?”

“It matters not whether you or I feel like praying, when the time comes to pray, pray. If we do not feel like it, we should pray till we do. And if there is a heavy storm coming on and our hay is likely to be wet, let it come. You will find that those who wait till the Spirit bids them pray, will never pray much on this earth.”

“We may say that our work drives us and that we have not time to pray, hardly time to eat our breakfasts. Then let the breakfasts go, and pray, get down upon our knees and pray until we are filled with the spirit of peace.”

“If the Devil says you cannot pray when you are angry, tell him it is none of his business, and pray until that species of insanity is dispelled and serenity is restored to the mind.”

“If I did not feel like praying, and asking my Father in Heaven to give me a morning blessing, and to preserve me and my family and the good upon the earth through the day, I should say, “Brigham, get down here on your knees, bow your body down before the throne of him who rules in the heavens, and stay there until you can feel to supplicate at that throne of grace erected for sinners.””

May we each follow Brother Brigham’s sage advice and humble ourselves, get on our knees, and talk with our Father in Heaven. He’s waiting to hear from us. He loves each of us. He wants to hear about our lives, concerns, and desires. He can’t wait to bless us, enlighten our understanding, and draw us closer to Him as soon as we’re ready and make that first feeble step towards Him.

Just after writing these last lines, my ten-month-old baby girl woke up in the other room and started calling “Papa!” I immediately wet in to her, picked her up, and gave her a daddy-sized hug. Do we really think it’s any different with our Eternal Father when we raise our voices to Him? I witness with all the fervor of my soul that He loves to hear His children call Him “Father” and talk to Him!

To close, I remind you that the scriptures plead with us to pray and promise us unimaginable blessings if we do so in purity of heart. The Apostle Paul encouraged us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Who doesn’t need mercy and grace? If we approach God in prayer, it’ll be ours. The Apostle James also told us that “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5). Again, who doesn’t stand in need of greater wisdom? And, finally, the Lord showed us repeatedly, by His perfect example, that we must pray. In one particularly touching instance, He showed His love for those who follow Him when He prayed to the Father in this manner:

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. . . .

“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. . . .

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

“O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17).

If we want to know God, which is eternal life, we must pray. There’s simply no substitute for personal prayer. Talk with your Father in Heaven. Plead with Him on your knees. Pour out your soul to Him. He won’t be bored hearing about your troubles, struggles, concerns, and regrets. He won’t tire of your questions and seeking for truth. It will fill Him with joy to hear from you, His precious child. His Spirit will smile upon you. And, together with your Savior Jesus Christ, They will make Their abode with you (John 14:21, 23).

There’s true power in prayer. If you don’t currently pray, pray! Get on your knees and talk with you Eternal Father. Get to know Him. Declutter your life, turn down the volume, and clear the wax out of your spiritual ears. Speak and then listen. Ask and receive. And enjoy developing a truly beautiful relationship with your God as you speak to Him and listen to His responses. May God the Father bless you as you open your heart to Him in sincere prayer!

Zack Strong,
May 30, 2021

The Sacred Sixth

On April 6, 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded. From its first meeting of six men in a shack in backwoods New York state, this organization has flourished and now includes nearly 17 million members worldwide and is one of the fastest-growing faiths in existence. Because of what it signifies and what has happened on this day, the sixth of April is a sacred day to be remembered with gladness by all the peoples of the earth.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, the very Son of God, came to earth and restored the Gospel He had previously given, as Jehovah, to the ancient Hebrews. He also added upon it, revealing new knowledge and establishing new offices to help officiate in the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood. These include apostles, seventies, patriarchs, bishops, priests, deacons, missionaries, and others (Ephesians 4:11-12). The early Christians, led by the apostles (who themselves were led through divine revelation), took the Gospel to multiple continents.

Less than a century later, all of the apostles had been murdered (except John who was granted a different fate and special mission by His Master). This jarring lack of leadership catapulted the Church of Jesus Christ to certain apostasy. Long before the apostles had been hunted down, the various branches of the Church were already in rebellion and false prophets were already among them. This cannot be denied if one believes the testimony of the New Testament writers, such as John who relayed the word of the Lord to multiple branches of the Church, reproving them and singling out several apostate sects like the Nicolatians and others who “hold the doctrine of Balaam.” He even warned that there were those “which say they are apostles, and are not” (Revelation 2).

Peter, the chief apostle, concurred and foretold that “there 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” (2 Peter 2:1-2).

The Apostle Paul likewise repeatedly warned of apostasy, lamenting “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6) and warning “after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:28-30). I testify that ravening wolves did enter the flock and have dominated it for nearly two millennia.

It’s a matter of basic history that the Roman Catholic Church, and other churches that later split from them, changed doctrine taught by Jesus and His apostles and combined the mangled remains with pagan dogma and Greek philosophy. This is routinely acknowledged by Catholic scholars, though not by the clergy or by the lay members. It is borne out by any honest rendering of history. If these facts offend you, it’s time to learn true history and embrace reality instead of your cozy and comfortable, but erroneous, beliefs.

I cite only five of dozens of doctrines or practices that have been altered or abandoned by Christendom – both Catholicism and Protestantism:

1) The gift of the Holy Ghost was once given only to baptized members of the Lord’s Church “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” and in no other way (Acts 8:14-23).

2) The Lord’s Church was directed in the way He established, which was by revelation through a divinely called – not elected or hired – council of Twelve Apostles and prophets, flanked by groups of seventy elders, bishops, priests, deacons, and so forth (Luke 9:1-2; Luke 10:1; John 15:16; Ephesians 4:10-12; Ephesians 2:20).

3) The Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit were once properly recognized as three separate Beings and only in the Fourth Century did an uninspired and contentious council convened by political leaders concoct the doctrine of the Trinity – the three-in-one myth that has so confounded the world – and split with the three-hundred year old acknowledged fact that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three distinct Beings united by purpose, not by substance (Genesis 1:26; Matthew 3:16-17; John 14:28; John 20:17; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 3:14; 1 John 5:7).

4) The false idea that God is only a spirit without a perfected physical body. The resurrected Christ ate food and told His disciples to touch His body as a witness that He was not a mere spirit Being (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:26-28; Genesis 1:27; Genesis 32:30).

5) Marriage was once acknowledged as not only good and right, but as a commandment of Almighty God. In order to become a bishop in the Lord’s Church, for instance, one had to be married. The Apostle Paul, whose words are fallaciously twisted to support the Devilish doctrine of celibacy, actually taught that “marriage is honourable” (Hebrews 13:4). Peter, as the scriptures show so clearly, was married (Mark 1:30). And, of course, the Lord commanded Adam and Eve – and by inference, all of humanity – to marry and become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-25). Marriage is a prerequisite for exaltation and intentional celibacy or deliberate singleness is damnable (Matthew 19:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Not only did these, and many other, heresies become engrafted onto Christ’s true Church after the martyrdom of the apostles, completely bastardizing it, but the bishop at Rome decided to usurp authority and centralize all power in his office after the death of Peter. Catholic popes claim Peter was the first “pope” and claim their authority came down to them from Peter. This is erroneous on its face for anyone who has a basic historical chronology in front of them.

After Peter was killed, John remained alive. John, then, was the highest ranking apostolic authority in the Church. The authority would have devolved upon him to lead the Church. For the much lower bishop of Rome to claim the right to rule in the Church is a blatant usurpation of John’s legitimate authority. Yet, the Lord took John away from the apostates who called themselves “Christians” and permitted His Church to spiral into total apostasy, eventually including the Greek, Roman, and pagan mysteries as part of formal “Christian” dogma.

The conduct of the popes likewise betrays the fact that they were often uninspired and certainly not called to their post by the Lord. The Catholic Church came to deny revelation, which was the lifeblood of the Church Jesus Christ established. Indeed, in ancient times, the Lord revealed that His Church would always have a prophet at its head. Any church that denies continuing revelation or which doesn’t claim to be led by a living prophet is, simply, a false church. They may have some good followers and do good works. Many of their doctrines may be correct. But they lack the Priesthood authority to officiate as legal administrators of Christ’s Gospel with its myriad of sacred covenants.

Many philosophers and religionists alike acknowledged the need for some sort of course correct. This acknowledgment sparked the Reformation. The Reformation accomplished much good and freed people from the tyranny of the popes. Yet, as well-meaning as the Reformers were, and as righteous as many of them were, their efforts were only half-measures and lacked God’s ratifying seal of approval.

Three centuries after the Reformation began, learned men were still eagerly awaiting the rise of true Christianity. In 1822, for instance, Thomas Jefferson remarked that he was “happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity” (Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, July 19, 1822). This “restoration,” he often said, would lead to the “disbandment of the unintelligible Athanasian jargon of 3. being 1. and 1. being 3.” (Thomas Jefferson to Wells & Lilly, April 1, 1818). Jefferson had correctly accused the clergy of using “the whimsies, the puerilities, & unintelligible jargon” of Plato to create a despotic system of oppression that confused people into believing they needed the priests to tell them every little thing and micromanage their lives. Or, in the Sage’s own words:

“[T]he Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from it’s indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power & pre-eminence. the doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained” (Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, July 5, 1814).

“[N]o one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in it’s advances towards rational Christianity. when we shall have done away the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three; when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the simple structure of Jesus, when, in short, we shall have unlearned every thing which has been taught since his day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines he inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily his disciples: and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed purely from his lips, the whole world would at this day have been Christian. I know that the case you cite, of Dr Drake, has been a common one. the religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconcievable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce it’s founder an imposter. had there never been a Commentator, there never would have been an infidel.” – Thomas Jefferson to Timothy Pickering, February 27, 1821

John Adams responded to Jefferson that his views on Plato “perfectly harmonize with mine.” He also said: “If the Christian Religion as I understand it, or as you understand it, Should maintain its Ground as I believe it will; yet Platonick Pythagoric, Hindoo, and cabballistical Christianity which is Catholic Christianity, and which has prevailed for 1500 Years, has recd [received] a mortal wound of which the Monster must finally die; yet So Strong is his constitution that he may endure for Centuries before he expires” (John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, July 16, 1814).

Check mate, Plato. What honest and informed person can deny these piercing observations? The Great Apostasy really did exist. Catholicism really did combine Kabbalism (Jewish mysticism), paganism, and intellectually bankrupt Platonism. Though the Reformation struck a severe blow to the monstrous Catholic dogma, the Apostasy persisted and necessitated a total restoration of the Lord’s doctrine and Church – a restoration that could only be effected by the Lord Himself.

When the time and setting were right, the Lord indeed spoke again from Heaven. In 1820, the veil was parted and the Lord again called a prophet to not merely reform, but to fully restore His Church, complete with all the authorities, offices, and ordinances it had formerly possessed before the murder of the apostles. Though Thomas Jefferson didn’t know it at the time, the momentous “restoration of primitive Christianity” he dreamed about was already underway.

The man chosen by the Lord to wear the prophetic mantle and usher in the final Gospel Dispensation was a young man in backwoods New York named Joseph Smith, Jr. Joseph Smith was chosen by the Savior to be His representative on earth – a prophet, seer, and revelator. The ancient apostles who last held the Lord’s Priesthood authority – John the Baptist, who held the lower Priesthood, and Peter, James, and John, who held the higher Priesthood – appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and, following the ancient pattern, laid their hands on their heads and conferred upon them the Holy Priesthood.

This started once more the chain of authority that began with Jesus Christ during His mortal ministry. The same Priesthood that He possessed and which He gave, through the laying on of His holy hands, to Peter, James, and John, continued onward with Joseph Smith. The Prophet Joseph Smith became the successor to John, the final apostle of the early Church. Through divine inspiration, the Prophet brought forth additional scripture to complement and bolster the Holy Bible’s witness of Jesus Christ and to clarify how ordinances like baptism were to be properly performed. On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith formally restored the Church, calling it “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which name he received through revelation.

Like the ancient apostles, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum Smith, were unjustly imprisoned and murdered by a mob in their jail cells in 1844. In spite of their tragic deaths, the Church continued forward. This is because it was not Joseph Smith’s church, but The Church of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s power was upon it. His Priesthood authority directed it. The prophetic mantle transferred automatically from Joseph Smith to Brigham Young. It has continued down to this day to a man named Russell M. Nelson who stands as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify with all the fervor of my soul that this Church is the Lord’s Church and that it is led by prophets who hold the identical authority held by Peter, James, and John. I know this truth through the Holy Spirit and I dare not deny it. It’s true! I’m an independent witness.

No one likes being told their beliefs aren’t true. It’s a hard thing to accept. Yet, if the world is to save itself from darkness, it must acknowledge that the Great Apostasy is ongoing; that the version of “Christianity” that’s popular in the world is a false and altered form; and that the Lord’s true Gospel has once more been restored to the earth and is directed by legal administrators who officiate in the ordinances of salvation.

In April, 2020, the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a rare proclamation commemorating the Restoration of the Lord’s Church. They stated:

“In humility, we declare that in answer to his prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph [Smith] and inaugurated the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) as foretold in the Bible. In this vision, he learned that following the death of the original Apostles, Christ’s New Testament Church was lost from the earth. Joseph would be instrumental in its return.

“We affirm that under the direction of the Father and the Son, heavenly messengers came to instruct Joseph and re-establish the Church of Jesus Christ. The resurrected John the Baptist restored the authority to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins. Three of the original twelve Apostles—Peter, James, and John—restored the apostleship and keys of priesthood authority. Others came as well, including Elijah, who restored the authority to join families together forever in eternal relationships that transcend death. . . .

“We declare that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized on April 6, 1830, is Christ’s New Testament Church restored. This Church is anchored in the perfect life of its chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and in His infinite Atonement and literal Resurrection. Jesus Christ has once again called Apostles and has given them priesthood authority. He invites all of us to come unto Him and His Church, to receive the Holy Ghost, the ordinances of salvation, and to gain enduring joy.”

Truly, the Lord invites all people to come to Him, learn of Him, live like Him, and partake of the grace and love He offers through the ordinances of His Gospel. John the Revelator saw that the Gospel would be preached by angels from Heaven once more in the last days:

“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).

Clearly, it would be superfluous and improper for an angel to bring the Gospel to earth again if it had remained and no Apostasy happened. But the Great Apostasy did occur. And so did the Restoration! The Restoration of the Gospel is one of the most important events ever to transpire. Joseph Smith was the instrument the Lord used to start the process of the “restitution of all things.” That process is ongoing as the scattered Israelites are gathered, through missionary work, back into the fold of Christ. There is revelation yet to be revealed. There are momentous things yet to happen. There are more miracles in our future.

April 6th is a sacred day, a day of rejoicing and gladness. For those of you who have already joined yourselves to the Lord’s Church, give thanks to the Savior. Those of you who have not yet joined, I invite you to investigate the restored doctrines of the Lord’s Church. Investigate them prayerfully. Don’t feast on the bilge of dissenters, but go to the source – the scriptures themselves and the Lord. You can write to me and I’ll help guide you to sources that can help you in your personal search. More importantly, ask Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, to reveal to you by the Holy Spirit whether or not these things are true. And when you receive your answer, which I can testify will be in the affirmative, find a modern legal administrator of the ordinance of baptism and embrace membership in the Savior’s earthly Kingdom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

God bless you to feel and know the truth for yourself as you contemplate the “marvelous work and a wonder” that is the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Zack Strong,

April 7, 2021

Russell M. Nelson – Prophet of God

Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.” – President Russell M. Nelson, “Sustaining the Prophets,” General Conference, October, 2014

Many people believe that the most powerful person on earth is the president of the United States. This is incorrect. The most powerful man on earth, filling the most globally-significant position of trust, is the Lord’s living prophet.

President Russell M. Nelson

This man is a prophet, a seer, and a revelator for the whole earth. He is the Savior’s intermediary tasked with delivering the Lord’s current will to mankind, teaching His doctrine, and presiding over the gathering of Israel prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This man serves as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the burgeoning Kingdom of God that will stand through the Millennium. Today, Russell M. Nelson is the individual called of God to lead His earthly Church, speak in His holy name, and hold the keys of Priesthood authority to perform saving Gospel ordinances.

Russell M. Nelson is not a name familiar to most people. Yet, this humble man is the one chosen by Jehovah to preside over His affairs. He is the Lord’s captain and commanding officer. He is the one selected, as Peter of old, to sit in the presidency of the Savior’s Church and administer His ordinances of salvation.

It is my desire to help you understand who President Nelson is, what he has been teaching, and why your attention should be riveted on him more than on any other person currently living. I also wish to bear my personal witness that Russell M. Nelson is indeed a prophet in every sense of the word; an inspired man like Moses, Abraham, or Isaiah. Not only is he a prophet, he is the prophet called by the resurrected Redeemer to speak to the world on His behalf at this hour.

Before speaking specifically about President Nelson, a word about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over which he presides is in order. A century after Christ, the Church He established fell into disarray and apostasy. The New Testament writers frequently warned of impending apostasy. Indeed, some lamented that the various branches of the Church were already accepting false teachers and falling into wickedness. One cannot read the New Testament without encountering these warnings and prophesies.

During His earthly ministry, the Lord ordained twelve apostles to lead His Church. He set Peter at their head to serve as the prophet and presiding authority. In his capacity as president of the Church, Peter received revelation as needed and directed the affairs of the Church. To cite one example, Peter received the revelation that it was time to take the Gospel to the gentiles. This pattern of continuing revelation was to mark the Lord’s Church, as was leadership via a duly ordained prophet and body of twelve apostles.

Eventually, Peter, the Lord’s prophet, was taken and murdered. James, Philip, Andrew, Paul, and the rest of the apostles, except John who was not slain but went on to higher work, were martyred for their testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. In the wake of their murders and the consequent dissolution of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, who was left to lead the Lord’s Church? Who was left with the Priesthood authority to preside over the Church and officiate in essential ordinances? The sad answer is that no one was called by the Lord to fill these indispensable offices. No one was ordained in the proper way by others holding the same apostolic authority. Tragically, the Lord’s line of Priesthood authority ended with the death of the last apostle.

Inasmuch as Peter and the other apostles received their authority directly under the hands of the Savior, it was necessary that either they or Jesus personally extended the same authority to others. The resurrected Lord did not do so, as all sects admit the apostolic line ended. Furthermore, there is no record that Peter and his associates conferred their authority on successors either. Hence, the keys of the Priesthood authority – that power and authority necessary to officiate in saving ordinances like baptism and conferring the Holy Ghost – was lost and could only be restored by divine manifestation.

Though the bishop of Rome and others subsequently claimed authority to lead the Church, the apostasy overtook it as the New Testament writers prophesied would happen. As a brief historical note, the bishop of Rome was not an apostle, lacked apostolic authority to govern the Lord’s Church, and tried to make his claim while John, an authentic apostle and successor to Peter, was yet alive – thus making him an impostor. His claim, and those of his direct papal successors, is, thus, null and void. No other claimant to this sacred authority last held by John can be identified, nor was the body of twelve apostles perpetuated as established by the Savior.

This wholesale apostasy necessitated not a mere reformation, but a full restoration of the Gospel with its authority, ordinances, and gifts. This pattern of apostasy, loss of authority, and later restoration by divine manifestation through a newly called prophet, occurred several times in Biblical history, so it should not be surprising to any diligent student of the Bible that yet another apostasy, followed by a restoration, happened after the death of the apostles. John, in fact, prophesied of a future restoration. He foretold:

“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).

“Clarion Call” by Rose Datoc Dall

Surely one cannot believe that the Apostle John, a legal administrator of the Gospel, would speak of the need for an angel to come declaring the Gospel if that Gospel was intended to exist in an unbroken line as is generally supposed. The fact is, as John knew and spoke of, and as Peter and Paul and others testified, that the Lord’s Church would be lost from the earth and would need to be restored by Heavenly intervention and the appearance of angels.

Thankfully for the world, the Lord fulfilled His promise and the “everlasting gospel” was restored to the earth in 1830 through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith began his unassuming life as a poor, hard-working farm boy. He became interested in the salvation of his soul, talked to pastors, attended various churches, and prayed to God to know which of all the contending sects was correct and which he should join.

In answer to his simple, faith-filled prayer, the Lord personally appeared to Joseph Smith in a grove of trees near Palmyra, New York. Both the Father and the Son appeared in a powerful manifestation that forever changed the world. The Lord explained to Joseph that all the churches had gone astray. They professed His name, but lacked His authority. The Lord therefore called Joseph to be His prophet to restore His Gospel in its authoritative fullness.

In subsequent years after this First Vision, an angel named Moroni did appear and delivered sacred teachings and writings to Joseph Smith. The most significant of these was an ancient record of the former inhabitants of America, who were Israelites led to this land by the Lord around 600 B.C. They worshiped Christ, had prophets, and were some of the “other sheep” the Savior spoke of during His ministry (John 10:16). Their record, which came to be called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, was a direct fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy that the “stick of Judah” (the Bible) and the “stick of Joseph” (The Book of Mormon), would “be one” in the Lord’s hand (Ezekiel 37:15-19).

In a modern revelation, the Lord confirmed:

“And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:12).

Ezekiel with the sticks of Judah and Joseph

Together, as one, the Bible and The Book of Mormon come together to testify of Jesus Christ, clarify His doctrines, encourage mankind to repent and turn to Him for salvation, expose His enemies and false doctrines, and inspire His disciples to serve Him and preach the Gospel in all the world. While The Book of Mormon is derided, falsely, as a non-Christian book, it in fact speaks of Jesus Christ more frequently than the Bible. It powerfully confirms the Bible’s testimony that only in and through Jesus Christ can we be saved. We find such teachings as the following littered throughout the pages of this holy book:

“[W]e 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 [i.e. notwithstanding] all we can do. . . .

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

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

“And now, behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Nephi 25:23-29).

Thus, as John prophesied, an angel flying in the heavens proclaimed the “everlasting gospel” to the inhabitants of the earth once more in 1830. Joseph Smith was the instrument for bringing forward companion scripture to the Bible. Together, these two sacred volumes confound false doctrines and point our souls to Jesus Christ, our Master.

Not only was additional scripture given to support the Bible’s witness, but the same sacred authority that Jesus gave to His ancient apostles was restored to the earth. Peter, James, and John, the last ones to hold the Priesthood authority before the apostasy, appeared to confer their authority on Joseph Smith and a man named Oliver Cowdery, both of whom witnessed often of this event. Through these and other divinely inspired events and endowments of authority, the Lord’s Church was restored once more, being called, by Him, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is this Church organization, restored in our time with its Priesthood authority, saving ordinances, spiritual gifts, and pristine doctrines which break through the confusion of centuries of apostasy, that is headed today by President Russell M. Nelson. It is this Church which contains a prophet, a Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Quorums of Seventy elders, ordained patriarchs, teachers, and deacons, and so forth, just as we find in the Bible’s record of the early Church. This truly is the Lord’s Church and matches the Biblical description to a T.

Since the appearance of Peter, James, and John to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the Priesthood has been handed down in an unbroken line of succession. Seventeen men have been called as prophets in this final Gospel Dispensation. Today, the office of prophet is held by President Nelson.

The vibrant and fit Russell Marion Nelson will turn ninety-six years old on September 9th of this year. In terms of worldly accomplishments, President Nelson is much respected. He was a world-renowned heart surgeon who helped pioneer the art of heart surgery. He was elected the president of the Society of Vascular Surgery in 1975 and has held other prestigious medical titles and posts. He holds a PhD as well as other honorary degrees from multiple universities. He is an author of numerous books. He served in the Korean War as an Army surgeon, speaks six languages, has visited over 130 nations, and fathered ten children.

In spite of his remarkable professional and personal achievements, the Lord called him into the apostleship for other less tangible reasons. President Nelson’s ability to receive revelation is, simply, remarkable. Since becoming the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has instituted radical changes in Church format and focus not seen in generations. He has introduced numerous programs, alterations, and proclamations via revelation. He has been called “Moses in a business suit.”

In an uncharacteristically good CNN article penned in 2019 after President Nelson announced a certain change in Church presentation, we find the following description of how readily this prophet receives and follows revelation:

“When the messages come during the dark of the night, Russell M. Nelson reaches for his lighted pen and takes dictation from the Lord.

““Ok dear, it’s happening,” the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tells his wife, Wendy Nelson.

““I just remain quiet and soon he’s sitting up at the side of the bed, writing,” she said in a recent church video.

“Sometimes the spirit prompts the prophet’s wife the leave the bed, though she’d rather sleep. One such morning, Wendy Nelson told Mormon leaders, her husband emerged form the bedroom waving a yellow notebook.

““Wendy, you won’t believe what’s been happening for two hours,” she recalled Russell Nelson saying. “The Lord has given me detailed instructions on a process I am to follow.”

“Nelson’s nighttime messages have “increased exponentially,” his wife said. . . .

“One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church,” Nelson said, “is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will.”

In the Bible, the Apostle James testified that if anyone wanted knowledge, they could merely ask God in prayer and He would give it to them (James 1:5). President Nelson has put this principle into action and has become a veritable conduit for Heavenly communication. The CNN article then continued with an observation about why President Nelson is unique among world religious leaders:

“Lots of religions talk about revelations. They fill much of the New Testament’s last book and many parts of the older Hebrew Bible, from the burning bush that inspired Moses to the “still, small voice” who whispered to Elijah.

“But many modern believers consider both Bibles to be closed canons, the last words we’ll hear from God before the final trumpet blows. . . .

“Latter-day Saints, as they prefer to be called, believe in continuing revelation. Their canon is open, ready to be revised or supplemented by its top cadre of leaders, first among whom is the church’s president, who is considered a “prophet, seer and revelator.” . . . .

““There’s no mistaking it, this is Moses in a business suit,” [historian Kathleen] Flake said of the Mormon presidency, “someone who can lead people, write Scripture and talk to God.””

Yes, it is a unique point of Latter-day Saint doctrine that the windows of Heaven are not closed. God speaks to His children today just as He did anciently. Jesus Christ leads His Church by revelation through prophets just as He in days past through Peter, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, and other seers. Today, the Lord’s will is made known through modern prophets when it is needed in this work of gathering the souls of men into the Good Shepherd’s fold. Often, however, the occasion for announcements, alterations to programs, or renewed emphasis on eternal principles, comes during what we call General Conference.

Twice annually, the apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by the prophet-president, gather with Church members to expound doctrine and clarify the current will of the Lord. It is in these General Conferences that we can most easily see what the Lord wants His Twenty-First Century followers to be focused on.

Since his call to the apostleship in April, 1984, President Nelson has delivered 91 General Conference addresses. Twenty-one of those talks were given since he was sustained as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January of 2018. What has been President Nelson’s general theme or message as the prophet?

Since 2018, there has been a flood of light and revelation. It is difficult to point to one single teaching that has predominated. However, we can narrow it down to several that often rise to the top. I mention six, in no particular order:

1. The Gathering of Israel

2. Ministering

3. Receiving revelation

4. Home-centered, Church-supported worship

5. Repentance

6. Staying on the Covenant Path

1. The Gathering of Israel

President Nelson has made it clear that the gathering of Israel, that is, bringing the Lord’s sheep into His Church, is the most important work in all the world. During a worldwide youth devotional on June 3, 2018, the prophet told the youth of the Church:

“My dear young brothers and sisters, these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, if you want to, you can be a big part of it. . . .

“When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They decide for themselves if they want to know more.

“Those whose lineage is from the various tribes of Israel are those whose hearts will most likely be turned to the Lord. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Those who are of the house of Israel will most easily recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and will desire to be gathered into His fold. They will want to become members of His Church, make covenants with Him and Heavenly Father, and receive their essential ordinances.”

President Nelson went on to call the gathering of Israel “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth today.” To accomplish this great work, the prophet invited the youth to join what he termed the “youth battalion of the Lord.” He also called it “Zion’s army.”

Both youth and adults have been called to enlist in the titanic effort to bring people into the Church. In the October, 2018 Conference, President Nelson specifically invited the women of the Church to engage in this great work, stating: “I’m extending a prophetic plea to you, the women of the Church, to shape the future by helping to gather scattered Israel.”

It is our work as members of the Church to gather Israel; that is, to gather those who, according to the promises given to Abraham, have a right to hear the Gospel. As full-time missionaries, in our daily lives, and in our all-important roles as fathers and mothers, it is our job to hunt out the true believers – even in our own homes – and share with them the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they may choose to embrace it, repent, and be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no greater work in all the world!

2. Ministering

In 1964, the home teaching program was instituted. Under this program, members of the Church were organized with companions to go meet with other ward members and their families once a month. Home teaching was one of the mainstays of the Church. True to form, however, President Nelson announced the end of home teaching during his first General Conference presiding over the Church, replacing it with a simper system called “ministering.” He remarked:

“We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering.””

In another address in the same Conference, President Nelson explained the need for this “holier” system of ministering:

“Brethren, we hold the holy priesthood of God! We have His authority to bless His people. Just think of the remarkable assurance the Lord gave us when He said, “Whomsoever you bless I will bless.” It is our privilege to act in the name of Jesus Christ to bless God’s children according to His will for them. . . .

“To all brethren holding the priesthood, I invite you to inspire members to keep their covenants, fast and pray, study the scriptures, worship in the temple, and serve with faith as men and women of God. We can help all to see with the eye of faith that obedience and righteousness will draw them closer to Jesus Christ, allow them to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and experience joy in life!

“A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness. . . .

“Brethren, there are doors we can open, priesthood blessings we can give, hearts we can heal, burdens we can lift, testimonies we can strengthen, lives we can save, and joy we can bring into the homes of the Latter-day Saints—all because we hold the priesthood of God. We are the men who have been “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of [our] exceeding faith,” to do this work.”

As can be seen, this higher and holier system of ministering does not give us a pass or an excuse to relax, but, rather, increases our level of responsibility and the urgency with which we must serve. President Nelson has emphatically pleaded with us to become purer that we may have more spiritual power to bless those around us. Jesus went about doing good, blessing people, healing the sick, uplifting the downtrodden, and spreading light, and it is the duty of those who hold His Priesthood to also do good to our fellow brothers and sisters. We can and should minister to all within our sphere of influence, as our prophet has clearly directed.

3. Receiving Revelation

In October, 2018, President Nelson delivered an address titled “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” in which he taught:

“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation . . . Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”

He also stated:

“One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children.”

In the April, 2020, General Conference, President Nelson again pleaded with us to make the necessary sacrifices to receive revelation. Said he:

“We also hear Him more clearly as we refine our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now. In the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is the messenger. He will bring thoughts to your mind which the Father and Son want you to receive. He is the Comforter. He will bring a feeling of peace to your heart. He testifies of truth and will confirm what is true as you hear and read the word of the Lord.

“I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.

“Doing so will help you know how to move ahead with your life, what to do during times of crisis, and how to discern and avoid the temptations and the deceptions of the adversary. . . .

“What will happen as you more intentionally hear, hearken, and heed what the Savior has said and what He is saying now through His prophets? I promise that you will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness. I promise miracles in your marriage, family relationships, and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in your life.”

It was during this talk that President Nelson said the Restoration of the Gospel is an “ongoing process.” Indeed, he had previously remarked:

“We are witnesses to a process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you are just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come.”

4. Home-centered, Church-supported worship

In October, 2018, President Nelson made a major change to Church worship. For decades, the Saints have met for three hours every Sunday. Acting under inspiration, President Nelson reduced the three-hour block to two. Simultaneously, he introduced a program for home-centered, church-supported worship. A family study manual, Come Follow Me, was unveiled. Instead of three hours in meeting houses, allotment was made for a two-hour worship meeting to supplement and support each individual family’s own home meeting. In these home meetings, families are expected to read and discuss the scriptures.

As part of the announcement for this change, President Nelson explained:

“As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “church” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.”

I personally love this change and the greater emphasis on home-centered Gospel study. When I was fourteen, my family moved to Port Lions, Alaska. We were the lone members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our small fishing village. It was too costly and difficult to travel by boat or plane into the nearest location that had a formal congregation. Consequently, my Dad received permission from Church authorities to hold meetings in our home. And so, for ten years, my family held Church in our home for three hours every Sunday. We had all the meetings and even performed primary programs. My Mom also taught seminary to me and my siblings. It was a bonding experience like no other. So, when the announcement for home-centered, Church-supported worship was handed down, I could only say, “It’s about time!”

The Come Follow Me program essentially prepared Church members worldwide for a day when they might be compelled to host worship services in their own homes. That day came sooner than many expected. When governments tyrannically forced churches into closure due to overblown and unfounded “Coronavirus” fears, the Church complied with the orders, unjust as they were, and authorized Priesthood holders to hold sacrament meetings in their homes while continuing the Come Follow Me program.

5. Repentance

In a landmark address to the men of the Church in April, 2019, President Nelson highlighted the need for daily, constant repentance. He spoke of the power that lies in repentance. He taught:

“Recently I have found myself drawn to the Lord’s instruction given through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation.” This declaration is often repeated throughout scripture. It prompts an obvious question: “Does everyone need to repent?” The answer is yes.

“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.

“The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta– means “change.” The suffix –noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”

“Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.

“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. . . .

“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.10

“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.”

Repentance has certainly been necessary at any time in history, but it is especially important at this crucial juncture before the return of our Lord. If we heed the prophet’s words, we will have the purity and, thus, the power, necessary to defeat our enemies as true Christian soldiers.

6. Staying on the Covenant Path

In conjunction with repentance, President Nelson has spoken often of the “covenant path” of the Gospel. He has encouraged people everywhere to make formal covenants with the Lord through baptism, temple ordinances, etc., and then stay true to those covenants. In his first formal message as president of the Church, President Nelson said:

“[T]o each member of the Church I say, keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.

“. . . The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in a temple that qualify us for the greatest gift of God – that of eternal life. The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary. Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.

“Now, if you have stepped off the path, may I invite you with all the hope in my heart to please come back. Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this, the Lord’s Church. You and generations yet unborn will be blessed by your actions now to return to the covenant path.. Our Father in Heaven cherishes His children, and He wants each of us to return home to Him. This is a grand goal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – to help each of us to come back home.”

Three months later, in his first General Conference as president of the Church, President Nelson built upon this teaching when he declared:

“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.

“Eventual exaltation requires our complete fidelity now to covenants we make and ordinances we receive in the house of the Lord.”

The rapid building of temples could very well be added to our list of President Nelson’s emphases considering the dozens of temples he has announced, including temples in China, Russia, India, and the Middle East. The purpose of temples, however, is to provide a sacred place in which to make covenants with the Lord. These covenants could be given on a mountain top or in a broom closet and it would make little difference if performed by God’s Priesthood authority and power. From the very beginning, President Nelson has attempted to focus our minds on the overarching importance of covenants.

Finally, in the same talk to the men referenced above, President Nelson yet again extended the invitation to return to and stay on the covenant path of discipleship:

“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.”

This is the grand message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that all of us, regardless of where we are in our journey, may repent, change, and be made whole. The Lord taught: “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” (John 3:17). The word “whosoever” is significant. The invitation to come unto Christ and be healed is not reserved for a select few, but for any and every soul. Everyone who desires, may come to Jesus the Christ and, through faith and ordinances, be saved.

President Nelson has caught the divine vision and is attempting to bring us to the Savior. He wants us to gather together into the Lord’s Church. He wants us to minister to one another as Christ did. He wants us to qualify ourselves to receive personal revelation for our lives. He wants us to make our homes places of Gospel light, learning, and love. He wants us to repent and turn our hearts to God. And he wants us to make and keep sacred covenants so that we may, with our families, qualify to return to our Father in Heaven’s home.

This wonderful man of God has delivered many powerful sermons, trekked around the world uplifting people, and spent his life in the service of others and of the Lord. Since 1984, President Nelson has devoted his life to full-time ministry. As the apostles of old who went into all the world, without thought of themselves, to share the Lord’s light, President Nelson has been a beacon of hope, light, and love to millions of human beings on all continents.

I share my testimony which I have through the burning witness of the Holy Spirit that Russell M. Nelson is not only a learned man with many accomplishments under his belt, but a humble, inspired man of God. He radiates hope, confidence, and power. He is surrounded by light and carries the presence of the Savior with him.

I know President Nelson is a chosen vessel to lead the Lord’s Church at this very moment in time. He is not only a prophet, seer, and revelator, but he is the prophet on earth – the one man called, ordained, and authorized to speak in the name of the Lord. No president, no king, no sheikh, no pope, no dictator, possesses the same level of authority or power that President Nelson does, for his Priesthood is binding on earth and in Heaven. No one’s words are as important in your as President Russell M. Nelson’s.

Rivet your eyes on the prophet of God. Don’t let your gaze fall. Focus on the captain of the Lord’s Battalion, the commander of Zion’s Army. I give my witness that the Lord speaks through him, that he holds the keys of the Priesthood with its saving ordinances, and that we can know the will of our Master by hearkening to the words of President Russell M. Nelson. We can trust and follow him because he trusts and follows so closely behind our Savior, Jesus Christ, the very Lord who called him to His glorious ministry. I sustain him, the office he holds, and the Lord who called him, now and forever.

I express special gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for His loving-kindness and for His open invitation to come unto Him. I marvel at His matchless power to heal. I testify of Jesus Christ as the Master Healer. It is but one of many attributes that characterize His incomparable life.

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Creator, the great Jehovah, the promised Immanuel, our atoning Savior and Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father, our great Exemplar. And one day we will stand before Him as our just and merciful Judge. . . .

I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ – the Master Healer – in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – President Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ – the Master Healer,” General Conference, October, 2005

Zack Strong,

September 9, 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

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).

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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.

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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).

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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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere, the Lord has revealed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I said unto him: I know not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I will fortify this land against all other nations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zack Strong,

February 27, 2020