I found that while many Evangelicals do not agree with the the LDS view of the Plan of Salvation when it comes to the 3 degrees of glory as explained in 1 Cor. 15: 40, or 2 Cor. 12: 2 or 3 habitations explained by Irenaeus quoting Papias in "Against Heresies;" many do believe that those who are saved in heaven will receive different rewards.
1 Cor 3: 8-15 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Here Paul plainly distinguishes between salvation which both men received and reward. LDS believe that while all men will be resurrected both the just and the unjust, all those except the sons of perdition who sin against the Holy Ghost will be saved from hell. Some will have to go through the fire, but as Isaiah says the prisoners will eventually be freed. What will be different is the reward. So, heaven is not an all or nothing proposition. We will reap according to that which we sow in Christ.
Matt. 12: 31-32 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
That said, when I asked why they had trouble accepting different habitations or spheres, but they could accept the idea of different rewards, one pointed to D&C 93: 30.
D&C 93: 30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
This person couldn't accept that there could be different heavens or spheres of existence because he thought that kind of thing led to moral relativism. It seemed to him that this verse to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants was teaching that universal truth didn't really exist and that truth really came down to your individual circumstances.
Thankfully, that is exactly the opposite of what this is saying. But I do not fault this person for misunderstanding it as some others have also come to the same unfortunate conclusion. When D&C 93 says that "all truth is independent" It means exactly what it says. Truth isn't dependent on the circumstance, it is independent of circumstance. This is actually an argument for universal truth, not against it. In fact, this verse is teaching a principle that is taught in physics which also supports the idea of universal truth. That physics principle is Einstein's theory of relativity.
What does Einstein's theory say? It says that the speed of light is constant regardless of reference frame. The properties of objects as observed by different observers depends on their reference frame. To someone traveling in a car on the highway the same speed as an adjacent car, the other car may seem like it is not moving. But to an observer sitting in a parked car on the side of the road, both cars are traveling at highway speeds. This part is classical physics.
But if the stationary observer and the observers in the cars all turn on their car headlights, If you were to measure the speed of light coming from the stationary car and the moving cars; they would be exactly the same. The light coming from the moving car wouldn't be traveling any faster just because its emanating from a car that is already moving. Light from both moving and stationary cars would strike a distance target at the very same instant. Classical physics would predict the light emanating from the moving vehicle would be going slightly faster; the speed of light + 65 mph. Einstein proved that light from both cars travels at 3.998X10^8 m/s in a vacuum. So, it turns out that classical physics is more relative than relativity.
In other words, there may be different frames of reference and objects traveling in different directions and at different speeds, but the speed of light is universal regardless. The same applies to truth. D&C 93 is not saying that truth is different in each sphere. Truth and the laws are exactly the same and independent in each sphere or habitation or reference frame, but that there may be different consequences or effects because of that fact.
An article from the Sept 1980 Ensign addresses this issue. This article addressed why many scientific theories seem to exclude God from having a hand in creation. The opinion of the author F. Kent Nielsen (assistant professor in the history of science at Brigham Young University, teaches Sunday School in his Provo, Utah, ward) is that law and truth may behave differently in different spheres. While truth and law does not change. Those laws may behave certain ways in a pre-fall world vs, a fallen world, vs a Millennial world, vs a Celestialized world. This is not saying the truth is variable or relative itself. This is the same with Einsteins theory of relativity. The speed of light constant is constant under any reference frame or sphere. It is the object in the reference frame that acts relative not the constant. What are some of these effects or consequences. According to Wiki, it says:
The speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, regardless of their relative motion or of the motion of the source of the light. The resultant theory has many surprising consequences. Some of these are:
Time dilation: Moving clocks are measured to tick more slowly than an observer's "stationary" clock.
Length contraction: Objects are measured to be shortened in the direction that they are moving with respect to the observer.
Relativity of simultaneity: two events that appear simultaneous to an observer A will not be simultaneous to an observer B if B is moving with respect to A.
Mass-energy equivalence: E = mc2, energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable.
Kent Nielsen's point is that the effects of truth and law may be different in a different sphere. But the scientific laws that we see are the effects or consequences in our sphere. Therefore, looking at how our Earth is put together may not tell us much about God because God dwells in a higher Sphere, and the laws of light and nature may have different effects. And also, because this Earth before the Fall may not have always existed in this same sphere of existence. Again, this is not saying that there is no such thing as truth.What Bro. Nielsen was saying is that we shouldn't get discouraged if science doesn't measure God or God doesn't necessarily show up in the equations as we derive them here in this Telestial state.
Many social and moral relativists have made the same error in citing Einstein's theory to support their immoral political and social agendas. But their interpretation of this theory is completely contrary to its actual meaning.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I found that while many Evangelicals do not agree with the the LDS view of the Plan of Salvation when it comes to the 3 degrees of glory as explained in 1 Cor. 15: 40, or 2 Cor. 12: 2 or 3 habitations explained by Irenaeus quoting Papias in "Against Heresies;" many do believe that those who are saved in heaven will receive different rewards.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Church of Jesus Christ is not a Protestant religion but restored Christianity. We do not claim to be a branch or offshoot of the Catholic Church because if that church is incorrect, then all branches off it are incorrect together. The LDS Church interpret the Bible foretelling a falling away or apostasy of Christ's church (2 Thes. 2: 3). Just like God the Father allowed His Son to be crucified, God also allowed man to desecrate His temple, martyr His Apostles, and destroy His church. But just as Christ was resurrected, so too would God raise His temple, Church, and Holy Word in the last days before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Dan. 2: 28, 44).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
There is considerable debate among Christian churches on whether there should be a paid ministry or not. Many Christians look to two scriptures to support their case that it is acceptable for local ministry to be paid from the tithing of the members of their church.
1 Cor 9:14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
1 Tim 5:17-18 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
According to many modern translations, 1Cor 9:14 has been interpreted to say: "get their living from the gospel?" The KJV and other older versions say, "So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to live of the gospel." So, the issue here is, what makes more sense. Is this scriptures saying, the Lord wants that those who preach His gospel should live it, or that they should make money from it.? To understand the question we need to compare the different Bible versions and look at the original Greek. With the Internet and websites like Biblos.com, comparing multiple Bible translations, original manuscipts, and Lexicons can be done with a click of the mouse.
Looking at 20 translations the money vs. obedience interpretation is 50/50. So, lets look at the original Greek and see which interpretation is more justified. Should those who preach the gospel live it, or should those who preach the gospel receive ill-gotten gain, and filthy lucre from it. I don't know Greek but I am proficient in Spanish, so I will compare the Greek to the Latin and Spanish.
οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν
Ita et Dominus ordinavit iis qui Evangelium annuntiant, de Evangelio vivere.
Así también ordenó el Señor a los que anuncian el evangelio, que vivan del evangelio
The next step is to look up the root words which comprise the phrase in question in a Lexicon. A Lexicon is a Bible dictionary that describes the root meaning of the words in the Bible based on the usage of the word in other places in scripture and other contemporary writing of the time. Lexicons also can disagree. It is also important to not only understand the meaning of the root word, but also the case and tense of the word.
εκ preposition: a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause literal or figurative; direct or remote)
του definite article - genitive singular neuter: the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom) -- the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.
ευαγγελιου noun - genitive singular neuter: a good message, i.e. the gospel -- gospel.
ζην verb - present active infinitive: to live -- life(-time), (a-)live(-ly), quick.
So, who would I interpret this?
[Thus/So] the Lord [ordained/directed/required/proscribed] those who [announce/proclaim/preach] the Gospel, to live [of/from/*omit*] the gospel.
Now, how do you get "make a living" or "earn a living" or "get a living" from this? Are the modern interpretations justified? The things I noticed here is the Spanish use of the subjunctive tense. This prepositional phrase is not subjunctive which is a tense which expresses doubt. It is active infinitive which is closer to indicative or imperative because the Lord is requiring it. If I were to assume subjunctive tense, then I would translate this into English "Thus the Lord ordained those who preach the Gospel, should live the Gospel." So, I don't necessarily agree with the Reina-Valera, but I wouldn't say its wrong.
But, how do you get "earn a living" from this. This translation requires that a similar idiomatic expression for "earn a living" is being used here in the Greek or that the verb for "to live" be used twice. I just don't see any support for that in the text.
Now, what about 1 Tim 5:17-18? This verse does not support the idea of a paid local ministry either. First off this chapter is taking about the "Law of the widow" or the responsibility of the church to care for the widow, poor and fatherless. In the verse preceding, Paul makes the point that the Elders or Presbyters of the church should take the responsibility to care for the widows and even take them in and care for them instead of putting that responsibility solely on the church. Paul says, "let them (the Elders) relieve them, and let not the church be charged." This is similar to what he says in 1 Tim. 5: 4.
What is the broader, cultural and historical context of this verse? The early saints were living the Law of Consecration and laying all their substance before the Bishop. Then, each head of household would be given a portion according to his families needs. Accordingly, Paul is saying that those Elders who have taken widows and fatherless into their care, are deserving of "double honor" or a double portion just like the eldest birthright son.
Now that we see these two verses do not support the idea of a paid ministry, we can look at other verses in the New Testament which are contrary to this practice.
1 Pet. 5: 2 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;
Acts 20: 33-34 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
Matt. 6: 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
In the first verse, Peter tells the leadership to feed the flock willingly and not for money which he terms "filthy lucre" or ill-gotten gain. In the second, Peter reminds the people that although he has dedicated his life to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ he as still provided for his own needs and for those with him. It may be that Paul was independently wealthy and used his savings to fund his missionary journeys. But the scripture that is most important on this issue is the following.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
The church membership should be subordinate to the leadership in authority but not in spiritual gifts, blessings, wealth or anything else. But when a local pastor used the tithing of his flock for his own support, this creates a huge conflict of interest. This practice is known as priest craft. Several modern Christian denominational and non-denominational churches are pattered after 1 of 2 flawed models. Either the pastor is elected by a council of Deacons or Elders, or the pastor owns the mortgage on the church. Either way, there is a significant conflict of interest. Either the pastor with be burdened with the task of not offending the electorate in the first case, or in the second, he is burdened with not offending the tithe payers. Both these leadership models will consciously or subconsciously affect how effective the Pastor is in calling his flock to repentance, and it will affect how much time and attention that Pastor will pay to certain members over others. Not all Pastors would necessarily be affected, but then they will be faced with continual mutiny and discontent and will have no hierarchy to support them in their call. This is why as we see in the Bible and the Early Church Fathers that Bishops are to be ordained and appointed and not elected or self-proclaimed.
What does the LDS Scripture have to say on this issue?
D&C 42:71-73 And the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families supported out of the property which is consecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned; Or they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services, either a stewardship or otherwise, as may be thought best or decided by the counselors and bishop.
D&C 51:13-14 And again, let the bishop appoint a storehouse unto this church; and let all things both in money and in meat, which are more than is needful for the wants of this people, be kept in the hands of the bishop.And let him also reserve unto himself for his own wants, and for the wants of his family, as he shall be employed in doing this business.And the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.
At first glance, these verses sound like they are allowing the Bishop and his counselors to live off the tithing of the people. That is not what it is saying. If you take into the historical context of these verses, the early LDS Saints were living the United Order with "all things in common" like the Early Christian Saints. Under this system, the Bishop and his counselors were required to operate the Bishop's Storehouse. While the local leadership were not paid for giving sermons, and visiting the sick, which can be done in addition to having a full-time job; the management of the storehouse was a full-time job and therefore the Bishop could rely on the storehouse as all the rest of the Saints did.
This principle is applied in the church today to cover those who work for the church to run its corporate needs. While there are many volunteers, those who are employed by the church to operate and manage its facilities are paid a competitive and just rate. But they are paid for skilled labor and expertise and not for preaching.
D&C 43:12-13 And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him;
This verse refers to the hierarchy of the church who are required to devote their full time and attention to the work of the ministry. These workers in Gods kingdom which include the Apostles, Seventies, Mission and Temple Presidents are allowed a living stipend to supply their needs. But there is no conflict of interest here, because they are the top and excommunicating or offending a few members is not going to affect their livelihood.
Monday, November 17, 2008
A friend asked me if priesthood was given in the Early Christian Church to the membership who were called, ordained, and set apart as Elders (Presbyters) and Deacons (Diaconos), then how could there be an Apostasy of Christ's Church. Although the Apostles, and Bishops were martyred or removed, couldn't the Elders and Deacons choose new Bishops and leaders?
The key to answering this question is to understand the keys. In Matt 16 Jesus says he will give Peter the keys of the kingdom and also the sealing power that whatsoever he binds on Earth will be bound in heaven. The Sealing power with the keys are the preisthood of God to speak and act in the name of God on the Earth. However, the keys of the priesthood are something distinct from the sealing (binding and losing) power itself. In Matt 18, Jesus gives the rest of the disciples the Sealing power only but no keys. What is the difference?
The sealing power or Priesthood is the authority to administer the rites and ordinances and blessings of the gospel of Christ. But, only the keys have the authority to authorize them to be done. What do I mean?
I am an ordained Presbyter or Elder in the LDS church. But I have not a single key. While I do not need keys or authorization to bless, anoint, and visit the sick, fatherless, and widow; and while I can baptize, confer the gift of the holy ghost, and ordain other Elders and Deacons, and administer the Lords Supper, and officiate in the temple to administer the everlasting temple covenant (Ez 37:26-29); I can't decide myself and authorize the baptism of someone else, or the ordaining of another Elder or decide to start my own congregation and do my own sacrament service, or build my own temple and officiate my own temple ordinances. I don't have keys. (the bestowal of keys is specifically stated or excluded when someone is ordained in the priesthood).
How does this work in the LDS church? While all worthy male members are ordained to the priesthood; and either made Elders and ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood or are ordained in the Aaronic Priesthood and are Deacons; keys are not given. Only those who are Bishops or hold the office of a president are given keys. And not all Presidents are given every key. A Temple president doesn't authorize sacrament meetings and Bishops don't authorize temple ordinances. But only the Chief Apostles who is the President of the church holds all the keys at one time and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles as a whole who can authorize anything that is required to be done in Christs church.
And this is why Ignacius said clearly to the Deacons "Do not do anything in the church without the Bishop" The Bishop had the keys. This is why after the Apostles were martyred, and the Bishops were either martyred or removed, the keys were lost, and the remaining Elders and Deacons could not replace them. And according to Clement and other Early Church Fathers over and over again, Bishops were appointed from the top down by "eminent men," and not elected in from the bottom up. The Deacons and Presbyters had authority but they didn't have the keys.
Again, the Bishop as head of the congregation holds the priesthood keys to approve and authorize the rites and ordinances. The Deacons and the Presbyters had the sealing or binding authority to participate and assist the Bishop in the administration of these rites and ordinances.
Epistle to the Smyrnæans Chapter 8
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution (Or, “command.”) of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
Ignatius clearly says you cant have a Lord's Supper or a Baptism without the Bishop. This is because the Bishop is given Keys to approve and authorize the sanctifying rites and ordinances of the gospel. According to Clement, Bishops were to be appointed by the Apostles or other "emminent men" in the Church hierarchy. After the Apostles were martyred and the Bishops were removed or martyred, the keys were lost. Presbyters had the high priesthood and had the binding authority to officiate in the ordinaces and to annoint and bless under the direction of the Bishop who had the keys.This is why Peter was given keys and "sealing power" in Matt 16, but the disciples were only given "binding power" in Matt 18. While the High Priesthood is authority. The proper use of this authority depends on being empowered by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost empowers priesthood authority through faith in Jesus Christ.Any believer with the Holy Ghost can enjoy every miricle and blessing the the greatest prophet or apostle could. But they cannot bless others without the preisthood. The purpose of priesthood is to elicite those same blessings for the benifit of others, recieve revelation for other, perform sanctifying ordinances in the name of Jesus Christ for others.
The Power of the Priesthood
Now what about the power of the priesthood? The Holy Ghost is the Power by which the authority of the Priesthood operates. Anyone who acts by the keys and authority of the priesthood must do so in the name of Jesus Christ who they represent and by whose shed blood makes all rites and ordinances effectual, but they must also act by the power of the Holy Ghost which depends upon the the individual Bishop or Deacons relationship with God.
So the keys and authority of the priesthood turn us to Christ because we have to empower that authority by the Holy Ghost. Priesthood is the authority but the Holy Ghost is the power by Christ whose sacrifice makes it all possible. So when the Elders of Christs church anoint and heal the sick, they do it in the name of Christ, by the authority of the priesthood, and by the power of the Holy Ghost. This is why elders will often pray and fast and ask Christ for grace before the blessing, because they individually need the Holy Ghost to empower their authority. Without the empowerment of authority, the authority itself is ineffectual.
Is there an example of this principle in the Bible? Yes! Christ promised his disciples that if they had faith, their authority could move mountains. Yet, when they tried to cast out a devil they failed. What happened? They failed, because having priesthood authority alone is not enough. Christ then explained that the disciples failed because "these come not out without prayer and fasting." What was Christ teaching? He was teaching them that they needed to empower their authority by better receiving the Holy Ghost which depends on establishing a closer individual relationship with God by prayer and fasting. Christ is the best example of this principle. Christ fasted and prayed 40 days to empower his ministry and authority.
Mark 9: 28-29 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
Lastly, why do you need priesthood keys and authority when every individual member is given the given the gift of the Holy Ghost? This is a critical point. Every true believer in Christ is given the power of the Holy Ghost and that power is just as powerful as the power Moses, Peter or any prophet or apostle had. Anyone with faith in Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost alone could move mountains and perform miracles and receive revelation. Then why is priesthood necessary? While you could enjoy the blessings of your faith in Christ, you wouldn't have the authority to bless and administer to others. And that is what the Priesthood is. It is the authority to elicit the same blessings, miracles, and revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost, but on behalf of others. Unfortunately, some always want to create false dichotomies. They want to say that the Bible only speaks about Priesthood or only speaks about the Holy Ghost. The truth is Christ taught the Priesthood is the authority and the Holy Ghost is the power and together, through Christ, we can help and bless each other to better lift the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees, visit the fatherless and widows, and keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ or Latter-day Saints is not a Protestant Christianity but Restored Christianity. We do not accept any of the Christian Creeds of the 3rd Century AD. We believe that after the martyrdom of the Apostles and the Bishops or Early Church Fathers of the 1st Century AD, that the Church of Christ was lost from the Earth. Someone asked me why God would permit the keys and authority of His church to be lost if God was all-knowing. God could have prevented it. God could have prevented it. But that's not what God does. God warned us and prophesied it, but allows sin because this life is a test of our agency. So, were does God warn about a complete falling away from the truth? I will proceed to list several prophecies that foretell this worldwide falling away.
Amos 8: 11 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 says that this spiritual famine, a person looking over the whole Earth would not find the words of the Lord. When has that ever happened that someone looking for the word could not find it? Abraham lived in Apostasy but had to leave Ur and found the word with Melchizedek. Moses had to leave Egypt and found the Word with Jethro in Midian. Those at the time of Christ had to leave Jerusalem and found the word with John the Baptist in the wilderness and with Christ himself. But this famine would be complete and worldwide.
Dan. 2: 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Daniel interpreted the king of Babylon's dream and saw the image with the gold head (Babylon), silver shoulders (Persia), the bronze torso (Greece), the Iron Legs (Rome) and the feet of iron and clay (Europe/NATO/United Nations/EU). Daniel said in the days of those kings of the iron and clay feet, would God establish a kingdom which would never again be destroyed. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands wasn't done during the days of Christ who lived during the Roman Empire that destroyed the Church, but during the feet of iron and clay (today in the Last Days). And this kingdom would grow and destroy the image. This wasn't talking about things that would happen after the Millennium, but just prior to the Millennium. Remember that the stone is cut out and has to build up momentum. And then after the Millennium does the stone become a great mountain itself (temple) until it fills the whole Earth.
Ezek 37:26-29 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
This prophecy says that there will be a day when Israel will no longer be divided and be two nations, but will be unified by the stick of Judah (Bible) and the stick of Ephraim (Book of Mormon). And that the temple will be restored but will not administer the Law of Moses Covenant, but the everlasting temple will be a temple after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It will be a Christian Temple, and not a Jewish Temple. And it will administer the Everlasting covenant to sanctify the church which is Israel and actual blood Israel eventually.
[Epistle of Barnabas Chapter 14. The Lord has given us the testament which Moses received and broke. This explains that God was going to give Moses the higher covenant but the people said they didn't want to speak with God and sent Moses to speak for them and when Moses returned and found the people worshipping the golden calf, God gave a preparatory covenant. God wanted Israel to be a kingdom of Priests, and holy nation and a peculiar people, but this wasn't realized. Again, Peter said the same thing].
Isaiah 2: 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house (temple) shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord (temple), to the house of the God of Jacob (temple); and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Isaiah prophecies about this temple which will be built in the Last days before the Millennium. But its not to be a Jewish, Law of Moses, Aaronic Priesthood Temple. The Temple to be rebuilt is to be a Melchizedek Priesthood, Christian, Everlasting Covenant Temple. If the fullness of the gospel of Christ was had during this whole time, why didn't the temple exist during this whole period as well?
Rev. 12: 6, 14 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. . . And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
John prophesies that the woman (church) fled into the wilderness (Apostasy) for 3 and 1/2 years after the dragon (Satan) devour her child (Christ). The time, times and half a time or 1260 days = 3 1/2 years and alludes to the famine during the days of Elijah that lasted 3 1/2 years, but speaks of a spiritual famine or Amos which precedes the the Millennium when Christ (the man child) returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
2 Thes. 2: 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
The falling away is (Apostacia) or apostasy. This cannot be just before the Millennium because the stone rolling forth, cut out the mountain is supposed to get bigger and bigger and never be destroyed but overcome and destroy the Image in Daniels dream. The Early Christian Fathers understood that the "Antichrist, man of sin, son of perdition" was already revealed and it was the Gnostic doctrine or any doctrine that denied the physicality and tangibleness of God and Christ.
But if there is to be a literal fulfillment and someone who sits in the temple at Jerusalem and does miracles to fool the the people in the Last days it is because the temple that the Jews rebuild is the wrong temple, it is a Jewish temple and not a Melchizedek Priesthood temple. Or, why would God permit it to be defiled again. God only allows destruction as a consequence for disobedience.
Rev. 13: 7 And it was given unto him [the beast] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
Christ said that a church build on the rock of revelation and the keys of the kingdom given to Peter would never fall and the gates of hell would not prevail. But here in Revelations John is saying that the Saints would be overcome by the beast. And that is because the keys and authority of the priesthood were lost which is the authority to receive direct revelation from God for the church.
Apostasy and Restoration is a Type of Christ
Just as Christ was killed and resurrected. God allowed His own son to die, God allowed His temple and holy house to be desecrated, and his church and they keys and authority of His priesthood to be lost. But as Christ was resurrected, so too was the church, priesthood, temple, and Holy word in the Last Days through the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Evidence of this Apostasy is recorded in human history. Just at the moment when you would expect a flood of blessings to be showered from heaven upon Europe because of accepting Christianity, you see the exact opposite. You see Europe descend into the Dark Ages where all the plagues of the Book of Revelations were poured out upon the people for adding and subtracting to God's word.
But then you see the light of learning begin with the Reformation and the steps taken towards the establishment of the United States which is a free nation that protects individual liberty and freedom of religion. And then the Restoration could be brought about. While the Saints were persecuted and driven from New York to Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois and then forced to leave the United States and establish the Territory of Utah in what was then Mexico. And even after having an extermination order signed into law in Missouri, the United States sent Johnston's Army to Utah to destroy the Mormons and burn our cities to the ground. But the LDS met the army peaceably and allowed them to set up a base and occupy the Utah territory in exchange for concessions with eventually led to statehood. And now we see the gospel going forth to every kindred, nation, tongue and people and temples are being build all over the world allowing the hope of Moses, and Peter for his people to become a holy nation, and a royal priesthood by administering the everlasting temple covenant to all people.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Many Evangelical Christians criticize the LDS Church for it's appointing clergy to the office of High Priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Even David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, criticized Joseph Smith for naming Elders in the Melchizedek or High Priesthood to the office of High Priest in a pamphlet entitled; "An Address to All Believers in Christ" (1887).
What is the basis for their argument again appointing high priest's? Paul explains in his masterful espistle to the Hebrews that just as the Jews had a high priest who offered a yearly sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest whose infinite and last sacrifice is the only high priest one can turn to for salvation and eternal life.
Heb 5:5-10 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Because the law of sacrifice is ended with the last and infinite sacrifice of Christ, some argue that there can not rightly be anyone in Christ's church appointed to the office of a high priest except Christ himself. And according to a narrow interpretation of priesthood, they claim that the New Testament never demonstrates the operation of the priesthood in the church in that there was never anyone given the authority to make sacrifice for the remission of sins.
However, Ignatius a Bishop and 1st-Century Christian suggests otherwise in Chapter IX of his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans:
And [the Scripture saith], "My son, honour thou God and the king." And say I, Honour thou God indeed, as the Author and Lord of all things, but the bishop as the high-priest, who bears the image of God-of God. inasmuch as he is a ruler, and of Christ, in his capacity of a priest. After Him, we must also honour the king. For there is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist. Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. Nor, again, is there any one among rulers to be compared with the king, who secures peace and good order to those over whom he rules. He who honours the bishop shall be honoured by God, even as he that dishonours him shall be punished by God. For if he that rises up against kings is justly held worthy of punishment, inasmuch as he dissolves public order, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the [Church's] unity, and throwing its order into confusion? For the priesthood is the very highest point of all good things among men, against which whosoever is mad enough to strive, dishonours not man, but God, and Christ Jesus, the First-born, and the only High Priest, by nature, of the Father. Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father. As ye, brethren, have refreshed me, so will Jesus Christ refresh you. Ye have loved me when absent, as well as when present. God will recompense you, for whose sake ye have shown such kindness towards His prisoner. For even if I am not worthy of it, yet your zeal [to help me] is an admirable thing. For "he who honours a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward." It is manifest also, that he who honours a prisoner of Jesus Christ shall receive the reward of the martyrs.
Epistle to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch Chapter 3 “Honour widows that are widows indeed.”Be the friend of orphans; for God is “the Father of the fatherless, and the Judge of the widows.”Do nothing without the bishops; for they are priests, and thou a servant of the priests. They baptize, offer sacrifice (ἱερουργέω = to act as a priest), ordain, and lay on hands; but thou ministerest to them, as the holy Stephen did at Jerusalem to James and the presbyters. Do not neglect the sacred meetings Specifically, assemblies for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. [of the saints]; inquire after every one by name. “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example to the believers, both in word and conduct.”
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians Chapter V.--The praise of unity. "For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power that Christ stands in the midst of them, how much more will the prayer of the bishop and of the whole Church, ascending up in harmony to God, prevail for the granting of all their petitions in Christ! He, therefore, that separates himself from such, and does not meet in the society where sacrifices are offered, and with "the Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven," is a wolf in sheep's clothing,
Here Ignatius is calling the church to honor their Bishop as is he were Christ himself because the office of the Bishop as Shepherd over the congregation is a type of Christ. And the Bishop, having the keys and authority of the priesthood, does not offer his own sacrifice, but is blessed to represent Christ and administer the flesh and blood of His great and last sacrifice to the church. So, while in reality, Christ is the Great and Only High Priest, and the only one to whom man can look for a remission of sin and for a hope of salvation, the naming of a Bishop as a high priest is not disrespectful to God but honors God because the office of Bishop is representative of Christ himself over the church.
Of course, the Bishop doesn't forgive sin any more than the Jewish High Priest did. The Bishop represents Christ and is ordained to not administer his own sacrifice but offer the flesh and blood, figuratively speaking, of Christ. Some have claimed, this doesn't count as an actual sin offering because the Bishop doesn't actually kill anything. The Lord's Supper is more a commemoration or memorial. But what this line of reasoning fails to recognize is that the Jewish High Priest's sacrifice, although literal, didn't actually forgive sin either. That sacrifice like the Lord's Supper was entirely representative and foreshadowed the infinite and eternal sacrifice of Christ which is the only sacrifice that works to forgive sin.
Accordingly, in the LDS church, with in the High or Melchizedek Priesthood which comprises the Elders, or Presbyters, there is a designation of high priest. And, all those who have served as a Bishop or in a bishopric are ordained to this office. When Christ organized his church there would have been very few men who would ever have the calling of Bishop and therefore have been considered a high priest because the church quickly went into apostasy and Bishops according to Clement were to serve for life (once a bishop always a bishop). However, today in the LDS church, Bishops are more routinely appointed for a period of 5-10 years. The LDS has a lay clergy, and the calling and releasing of bishops and bishoprics every 5-10 years gives more members the blessings of serving in this capacity. Accordingly, there are more in the LDS church who have had significant leadership experience and those with that experience are given the designation of high priests. However, we don't refer to those in this quorum by any special title.
When Joseph Smith was inspired to call and appoint Elders in the High Priesthood to the office of high priest, he didn't make these calls to suggest that anyone other than Christ could save. It was only out of respect and honor to God in the same spirit as Ignatius is explaining that Bishops were given this designation. Ignatius instructs the Saints to honor their Bishop because the office that the Bishop holds is holy and representative of Jesus Christ who is the Great Judge, Bishop, Shepherd, Apostle, and High Priest. Therefore, giving Bishops this designation helps us remember that Christ is King of kings, Lord of lords, the Most High God and the Most High Priest.
see Ps. 82, Heb. 3: 1, 1 Pet. 2: 25, Dan. 2: 47, Josh. 22: 22, Deut. 10: 17, Rev. 17: 14, Rev. 19: 16
Jesus Christ established the foundation of the Christian church with various callings and priesthood offices such as apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists (Eph. 4: 11). While the New Testament does give some important information about the duties and relationship of these offices, Joseph Smith and the LDS church benefit from modern revelation which clarifies the operation of these callings in the Church of Jesus Christ today.
For, since ye are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to JesusChrist, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.
1 Clement 17 Quotes Isa. 60:17 "For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith."
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians Chapter III "In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church."
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans Chapter VIII "Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. . . It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast. But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid."
Friday, November 14, 2008
The LDS 6th Article of Faith reads: "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."
LDS General Church leadership
(1) 1 Chief Apostle (Peter with keys of presidency) Matt. 16: 19
(2) 3 Apostles of the First Presidency (Peter, James, John) Mark 9: 2
(3) 12 Apostles (includes Matthias, Paul, Barnabas, and James, not Junia) Luke 6: 13
(4) 7 Presidents (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas) Acts 6: 3
(5) Multiple Quorems of Seventy ("other seventy") Luke 10: 1
Matthias (Acts 1:26) and other men such as Barnabas, Paul (Acts 14: 14), and James (Gal. 1: 19) who are referred to as Apostles were called and ordained to fill vacancies in the quorem. The Quorem of 12 Apostles was ment to be a standing governing body in the Christian Church.
What about Junia who was female? Paul writes that "Andronicus and Junia, . . . are of note among the apostles" (Rom. 16: 7) Some interpret this to mean the term "apostle" had a generic meaning for any missionary because the verse seems to call Junia an apostle. However, this is not what this verse means. Paul is simply saying that the names and good works of Andronicus and Junia have been recognized by the apostles."
LDS Local Leadership
(6) Bishop (Episkopate or Pastor) 1 Tim. 3: 1-2, Titus 1: 7
(7) Elder (Presbyter or any sub-office in the Melchisedek Priesthood) Acts 20: 17,28
(8) Deacon (Any sub-office in the Aaronic Priesthood) 1 Tim. 3: 8-13
(9) Patriarch (Evangelist Philip, Timothy) 2 Tim. 4: 5, Acts 21: 8
The overall structure of the church with Aaronic or Preparatory Priesthood of the Deacons and a Melchizedek Priesthood of the Elders is still in place. But the church is a living church and the some of the organizational aspects can change to meet the needs of the church.
What do I mean? I mean that when the Christian Church was first organized, no one had been Bishop, administered the Lord's Supper, or done anything in the church before. But today, some LDS churches have male membership where a majority of it's Melchizedek Priesthood holders have at one time or another been a member of a Bishopric. And with young men growing up in the church, the responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood was delegated to younger men. Remember that it is the blessing of the everlasting covenant that all members be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained an Elder. Being a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory.
And it is very inspired to involve young men in the priesthood early and was a wonderful blessing to me to administer the emblems of Christs body and blood each week, to collect offerings, and to administer the sacrament at homes of members too sick to attend church.
Also, although there are different sub-offices in the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood such as High Priest and Elder, and Priest, Teacher, Deacon; in reality LDS consider all Melchizedek Priesthood holders to be Elders (we even call the Apostles Elder so-and-so), and all Aaronic Priesthood holders can be considered Deacons.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Papias is respected by LDS, Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians as an Early Christian Father who lived in the 1st-Century AD. He is known to have been a Bishop of Hierapolis, Turkey and a respected doctrinal authority. His most well-known work is entitled "Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord." The only problem is, we don't have an existing copy of it. We know the work must have existed from several quotations from other later Christian scholars. One brief excerpt is contained in Irenaeus's "Against Heresies."
In reaction to what some saw as a corrupt and apostate hierarchy of the Catholic church, many Protestant Reformers began to interpret the bible to mean that there was not to be any hierarchy in Christ's church. Consequently, many Evangelical and Protestant churches are locally owned and controlled. In many cases, the governing Elders elect their pastor or bishop. This belief was based on the truth that every member has access to the Holy Ghost and a personal relationship with God (which is true). However, if the majority of Elders did not approve of the teaching or conduct of their pastor then they can vote him out and that vote would represent the inspired will of God.
While the New Testament is not clear on many aspects with regard to the operation of the Christian Church, there are some details found in writings from several 1st-Century Early Christian Fathers which provides additional reliable information on the organization and operation of the church.
Clement was appointed by the Apostles to be the Bishop of Rome after the martyrdom of Peter. Clement knew the Apostles personally and visa versa. In fact, Clement is mentioned specifically by Paul in Philip. 4:3 as being written "in the Book of Life." Clement is considered to be the fourth Pope of the Catholic church. Although there is no evidence from his or other's writings that his authority as Bishop or Rome exceeded that of the other Bishops or Presbyters.
How do the LDS view Clement. Clements writings are not considered scripture. But modern Apostles have said that LDS doctrine is reflective of 1st-Century Christian doctrine as opposed to 3rd-Century Christian doctrine just before the Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church attempted to establish a uniform doctrine for all Christians through a series of scholarly meetings, doctrinal debates, and voting. Unfortunately, this doctrine by committee, and enforcement by the sword, failed to unify the Christian Church. While few Christian writings exist from the 1st-Century, those from Bishop Clement of Rome, Bishop Ignasias of Antioch, and Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna are well respected by LDS General Authorities.
In the first surviving epistle from Clement, Bishop Clement writes the Corinthians to express his shock that they had removed their leaders. His words on the matter shed light on how the original Christian church operated with respect to the appointment of local leadership. Clement begins his epistle:
1 Clement 1 "and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury"
1 Clement 46:9. “Your schism has turned aside many, has cast many into discouragement, many to doubt, all of us to grief, and your sedition continues.”
This situation reminds me of the words of John, who wrote in a similar letter concerning Diotrephes who had usurped control of one of the Christian churches against the will of the Apostles:
3 John 1:9-10 "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church."
So, here we see an example of the hierarchy in operation from the New Testament itself. John an Apostle, is criticizing a local church and a leader but praising others he considers better and says he will settle things further when he arrives in person.
Clement provides even more detail in a similar situation in the church in Corinth:
1 Clement 44 Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.
Here we see Clement criticizing the Elders at Corinth for unjustly removing their bishop. But according to some evangelical understanding, the council of Elders should have every right to do so. But it seems clear from 1 Clement 44 that that kind of thing is contrary to the organization of the body of Christ which analogy itself suggests hierarchy. In a hierarchy, leadership is appointed from the top down and not voted upon from the bottom up. A man is selected from among the Elders and that appointment is then ratified by the "consent of the whole church" according to Clement and not just the council of Elders.
Clement reminds those at Corinth that the Apostles foresaw that there would be strife over the calling of pastor or bishop. Who would be contending over this issue? The local membership would be. Therefore, the Apostles appointed the Bishops. This was the appointed and approved ministry. Not an elected ministry. And after the death of the Bishop, others would be approved and appointed by them (the Apostles) or other eminent men (in the hierarchy) as opposed to being elected by the Elders. Then those appointed Bishops should be ratified by the consent of the whole church. Clement didn't say anything about a council of Elders but chastised the membership for removing their Bishop not for sin, but most likely over doctrinal issues. And here we see the great apostasy develop.
Now upon reading this, an Evangelical friend of mine sent we a link to some literature which explained an Evangelical view on church authority and hierarchy:
What caught my attention was the following: "Nowhere in Scripture is the church given authority over its leaders. Every passage that deals with authority in the church may be summed up with Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
The key is that according to this doctrinal paper, the church should never be given authority or power over its leaders. However, I know that many Evangelical churches are owned by a council of Elders and they vote their Pastor in and out. Or in other cases a pastor owns his own church. The problem with these two ecclesiastical models is both models subject the leadership to the authority of the church. How so?
In the first case where the Church is locally owned by a council of Elders and/or Deacons, the Pastor or Bishop is subjugated to the whims of the council. The creates a huge conflict of interest. Do you think that Pastor will as aggressively call his flock to repent? He won't because of the fear of offending the Elders, getting voted out, and loosing his job. So, the Pastor can't do his job in this system which is to offend and call his flock to repent and come to Christ.
The second case is as bad or worse than the first. Even though the Pastor owns the church, he really doesn't own it. The Pastor likely owns the bank mortgage on which he must make expensive monthly payments. Again, there is a significant conflict of interest here. Paying the bills depends on the tithes of the people in the church. So, again, the Pastor will fear to do his job and aggressively call his flock to repent and come to Christ for fear of offending the tithe payers upon which his livelihood depends.
In each of these arrangements the church has power over the Leadership because the Pastor doesn't want to offend the elders or tithe payers. But according to Clement the Bishop was to be appointed by the Apostles or other imminent men and not voted in. Then that appointment was to be ratified by the common consent of the "whole church". The key word here is appointed. And in this system, the Bishop was free to preach repentance and could only be removed for serious sin, but not over doctrinal disputes and preaching repentance. I mention doctrinal disputes because that is another benefit of a hierarchy is a uniformity of doctrine. A church with central leadership can interpret the word of God for the whole church and better keep the doctrine pure.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
During LDS General Conference this past October, several new temples were announced to be built. One of the temples to be built will be in Kansas City in Clay County adjacent to Jackson County. My wife at hearing this asked me if I thought that building the temple there was in fulfillment of the revelation that a temple would be built one day in Independence, Missouri. I said, I didn't think so. Here is why.
The temple that will be built during or just before the tribulation preceding the Second Coming of Christ will not just be a simple temple. It will be a temple city. As I have explained earlier, the concept of a temple is scalable. It begins within each individual and expands to an individual home and family, and then to a building, and then to a city, a nation, and then the whole Earth until when John in Revelations sees the Celestialized Earth, he comments, "there is no temple there." That is because there are no temples in Heaven. There are no places set aside as clean and holy. Heaven is God's place, and the whole place is holy and pure and not just part of it.
So, before the coming of Christ, God will reveal exactly the details of what a temple city should look like. He has already begun by revealing this City Plat by Joseph Smith for the City of New Jerusalem or "The New City of Peace." First off, you will notice that the city is only 1 mile square, and each city block is 10 acres, divided into 20, 1/2-acre lots. So, if you count up all the lots it adds up to just over 1000 lots. The significance of a city with a 1000 families is that it parallels Jethro's instruction to Moses to select captains of 1000, 100, 50, and 10 for the judging and civil governance of the people.
There are 20 lots per block, and the houses on each adjacent block do not face each other. While the homes on one block are oriented east-west, the homes across the street are oriented north-south. The lots are very elongated as well. This is the genius of the design right here. What happens here is that the home is build on the front of the lot near the street, while the back yards of all the homes of the block become a large common garden area. Because of the alternating orientation of the blocks, none of the houses face other houses, but would have a spectacular view of the central garden or forested area of the adjacent block.
There are no barns or farms in the city. All farms, barns, and animals are kept outside the city to the north and south. Everyone lives in the city. This allows everyone to enjoy the blessings that come from social and cultural interaction with others. However, the city doesn't sprawl and get too big. Once the city is full, then another city is surveyed and built like it according to the same pattern in another favorable location.
The city center is said to contain 24 temples. Now these buildings are not just for church. There will be a place for worship services, but the other 23 building will be used for government, education, and commerce. Brigham Young was said to have seen this city built and noted that the building were terraced and planted with lush gardens and fish pools on the rooftops and the terraces just like the Conference Center in Salt Lake. What is interesting about this detail is that this characteristic of terraced gardens is what made the ancient city of Babylon one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. And to those who have been to the LDS temple, there is an interesting parallel between the serpent-inspired idea of Adam covering himself with fig leaves and God later suggesting that we use that same idea to accent our white temple robes. In the same way that the "hanging gardens" were a symbol of the wicked city of Babylon, the same terraced gardens will later become a symbol of the future righteous city of Zion. However, we should remember that it is Satan who is the great impersonator and is the one who steals ideas and not God.
The 3 central acres which are reserved for the 24 temples of learning, commerce, government, and worship are symbolic of the God Head or God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost which must be the center focus of any perfect society.
The LDS Church has a unique perspective on Priesthood authority as compared to any other religion. What is priesthood? Priesthood is the power and authority to receive revelation for other people, to speak and to act in the name of God. God is perfect. Man is imperfect. Man cannot return to God because we would dirty the carpet. So, God has a plan to clean us up and make us presentable before we are to stand before Him and make an accounting of our lives here on Earth. So, to show us where the soap and water are and to encourage us to remember to clean behind our ears, God has called, chosen, and ordained prophets and apostles. Their words are written in the scriptures and there is a living prophet today.
How do we verify that someone who says they are a prophet and speaks for God is a prophet? Do we look for miracles and signs? No, we ask God ourselves in prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Because although someone may claim to be speaking for God, everyone has the right to receive revelation from God for themselves. Also, what that person is saying should be in-line with what God has already revealed in the Scriptures. So, personal prayer and the scriptures serve as a check-and-balance. Also, they should say and do everything they say and do in the name of Jesus Christ, because we know that salvation comes in and through the merits and mercy alone of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now that we know to search the scriptures and to pray to know if someone is authorized to speak and act in the name of God, that leaves getting an answer. God answers prayers by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, it is an important skill to differentiate your own thoughts and appetites of the flesh, feelings of excitement, and temptation from the devil from communication from the Holy Spirit. But I think most people have a sense for how to do this. In simple terms, the Holy Spirit is part of your conscience. The Bible speaks of it as a "still small voice" and a "burning in the bosom" as well the "unspeakable gift." Although, it is difficult to put in to words what our conscience is or "feels" like, I think most people experience and recognize the influence of their conscience.
So, where did Priesthood begin? Some Christian denominations teach that Moses was the first person to record scripture or know anything about Christ. But the New Testament teaches something very significant. The New Testament talks about the priesthood of Moses and Aaron or the Levitical Priesthood and asks if salvation comes by the Levitical Priesthood (Heb. 7: 11). The New Testament says no, because the Law given to Moses was a preparatory law to prepare the Israelites to receive Christ. In the Law of Moses, there was a High Priest who was in charge. Paul in the New Testament calls Jesus Christ the High Priest of a new and everlasting priesthood. But when the New Testament names this priesthood authority, it doesn't make up a new name for this priesthood, but gives it the ancient title of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Who was Melchizedek? Melchizedek was the king and High Priest of the City of Salem in the land of Canaan. Melchizedek was the guy who Abraham paid tithes to when he took up residence in Canaan. It turns out that Melchizedek and other Patriarchs before Moses knew a lot about Christ. And some of them like Enoch formed such perfect societies, that the City of Zion or the City of Enoch was taken up to heaven like Elijah.
How do we know about the Patriarchs? After Joseph Smith finished the translation of the Book of Mormon, he came across ancient papyrus that just happened to have writing on them about Abraham. They were written by Joseph in Egyptian about Abraham. While Joseph Smith was translating these documents, he learned also that Adam was the first Christian, and was baptized, and taught his children to read and write. And all the pre-flood patriarchs like Adam, Seth, Methuselah, and Enoch were very spiritually advanced people. Enoch was said to have walked with God. Now, how can you be an imperfect mortal and walk with God an not know anything about Christ? Not possible. So, it turns out that these ancient patriarchs had something special. And when it comes to Noah and Abraham, the Bible says that He will establish an everlasting covenant with them. Well this isn't the Mosaic Law or Covenant, that was temporary. This Everlasting Covenant is administered by the Melchizedek Priesthood and it is that priesthood and covenant which descended down through the Patriarchs from father to birthright son.
From the writings of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that Abraham recognized that Babylon was apostate. So, he left Babylon to seek out the covenants of the ancient patriarchs. God led Abraham to Salem and to Melchizedek who was a High Priest. And Melchizedek ordained Abraham a High Priest over his family with the same authority. Abraham passed that authority to Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), who bestowed it with the coat of many colors on Joseph who was sold into Egypt.
After many years, Israel was in a state of apostasy, and there was no prophet in Israel. Moses who grew up as an adopted son of the Pharaoh, was led out of the spiritual famine and found the everlasting covenant and priesthood from Jethro, the High Priest of Midian. Jethro received his priesthood through an unbroken line through a prophet Esaias who was a contemporary of Abraham and Melchizedek. Now God had chosen and authorized Moses to be the new prophet in Israel. Moses learned from Jethro about Enoch, Abraham and Melchizedek and God wanted Moses to create the same perfect society that Enoch and Melchizedek had achieved.
God tells Moses: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel" (Ex 19:4-6).
God wanted each individual in Israel to be a Abraham, an Enoch, and a Moses. God wanted to establish his everlasting covenant with each person over their family. But the people wouldn't have it. When Moses invited the men of Israel to ascend the mountain to speak with God, the people were afraid of God, and refused.
The men of Israel said: "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex. 20: 19).
And then, when Moses came down from the mountain with the everlasting covenant, he found the people worshiping Aaron's golden cafe. Moses destroyed the tablets and when he went up into the mountain again and descended with a new set of tablets, Israel had demonstrated they were not ready for the higher law, but were given the preparatory Law of Moses where only the tribe of Levi and sons of Aaron were made Deacons and Priests. When Moses led the Israelites into the Land of Israel, they named their capital city, Jerusalem or "New Salem" after the perfect city established by Melchizedek.
Now when Jesus Christ came and restored the everlasting covenant and is called a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, He passed the keys of that authority to Peter as well as the sealing power that whatever Peter sealed or loosed on Earth it would be sealed or loosed in heaven (Matt. 16: 19). And directly after that, we see Jesus and Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, and there appeared to them Moses and Elijah. And these prophets passed their authority and keys to Peter. And next it says that Jesus Christ gave the sealing power to bind and loose on Earth and Heaven to the Disciples. But the term disciples refers to a specific group. These disciples were the 70 elders, mentioned in Luke 10: 1, 17 who were ordained to go 2 by 2 as heralds into all the places Christ was going to visit before he got there. These are the same disciples spoken of in Matt. 18: 18 were speaking of the keys being given to the rest of the 12 Apostles and the sealing power alone being given to the Seventy.
Who were the 70 Disciples or Elders? This idea goes back to Jethro and Moses in the Bible and likely earlier. Moses was carrying the heavy responsibility of arbitrating all the disagreements between the people of Israel. When Jethro saw this He gave some inspired counsel regarding delegation:
Exodus 18:13-16 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
In addition to these Judges or Captains of 1000, 100, 50, and 10; God later tells Moses to choose 70 Elders of the Levites to serve as ecclesiastical leaders (Ex. 24: 1, 9). So we see the roots of the theocracy of the perfect Society under the Everlasting Covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood where the political and spiritual organization of the people is explained which will be finally realized when Christ comes again as King of kings and Lord of lords.
But what does this have to do with today. Because God wants to make the everlasting covenant with us. Peter said:
1 Pet. 2: 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
Heb. 13: 20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
God prophesied in the Old Testament about this day, that the time would come that He would sanctify Israel and restore the temple, and establish His everlasting covenant.
Ezek. 37: 26-28 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
And John in Revelations talks about this over and over again. This is the whole meaning of the Book of Revelations. As I have explained elsewhere, those who enter into this everlasting covenant, are those that are "sealed in their forehead" in preparation for the tribulation. They are the same group who have "overcome" and who are "dressed in a white robe" and who are made "kings and priests" unto God who is the King of king and the Lord of lords, the Most High God and the Most High Priest.
Rev. 1: 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev. 5: 9-10 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Rev. 17: 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
[Barnabas 14: The Lord hath given us the testament which Moses received and broke]