Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Most Influential Book in My Life: "The Lectures on Faith" by Joseph Smith Jr.

My birthday was this weekend.  I remember 2 years ago celebrating my 20th birthday in the Philippines.  At the time I was a serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Philippines Baguio Mission assigned to the Buwang, LaUnion Branch.  I remember one evening in October while returning to our apartment we were walking on the main road passing the municipality market.  I gazed into the night sky to witness a total lunar eclipse.  The moon appeared to have turned red and spectators were gathered in the street, staring into the night sky.  This was the second “blood” moon in a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses over the course of 18 months.  A talk was given that following Sunday in church from a young man, preparing for a mission, about signs being made manifest in the heavens.  I gave very little thought to the subject and shrugged it off as “dooms-day” hocus-pocus nonsense.  However, whether or not there is scriptural significance to these cosmic events, it was during this season of the Tetrad in which the Lord did begin to pour out His spirit upon me.

Just less than 6 months prior to this event in late April of 2014 I was involved in a bike wreck which knocked me out.  Although my helmet had a couple of scratches, my face took most of the impact.  I had gnarly road rash and an injured wrist which prohibited me from working out and resulted in muscle loss.  This knocked my prior oversized ego down, and over time it allowed me to focus on things more important than my good looks and muscular physique.  This accident was a tender mercy from the Lord. 

It wasn’t until the time of my 20th birthday when I began to have a desire to know more about my Savior Jesus Christ.  I guess you could say this is when I first began to “awaken” to the truth and reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I had grown up in the LDS church and have gone through the motions my whole life of living church standards.  I did all the outward things a good Mormon-boy was expected to do, but I never really knew much about Jesus Christ.  Although God revealed the truth of the Book of Mormon to me at a young age, I had never taken that testimony of the book in a serious pursuit to truly comprehend God’s character, perfection, and attributes.  My teenage years had made me slothful and careless in the things that mattered most.   Religion to me was more traditional and about living a certain lifestyle than actually having a relationship with Christ.  At that point as a missionary I knew a lot about “the Church”, but very little about Jesus Christ.   Although I had heard stories about Jesus, I wanted to know for myself who is this God we claim to worship and whose name is on all our churches.  What did he do?  How did He do the things He did? What is He like?
So I began to study the Gospels in the New Testament to learn more about Him from what was recorded of His mortal ministry in Jerusalem.  The more I learned about Him from my study, the more I wanted to know Him.  Not just know about Him, but to actually know Him for myself.  I wanted a personal intimate relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ.

I began to actually earnestly pray to God in private.  At night after my companion had fallen asleep I would go out to the roof or the lot behind our apartment where I could be alone to pour my heart out to God vocally without worrying about other’s listening.  There was no set from or recitation or guide to my prayers.  I would speak to Him as if He was right in front of me.  It was just God and I, and I cried from the heart. 

Our Lord is not an aloof God, He is very personal and invested in each one of our lives.  He answers our sincere prayers.   In January of 2015 I decided to trust wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save.  I made a conscience decision that I would no longer trust any man, including my family, or the church organization and its leaders.  I came to the conclusion to rely solely upon God and God alone for truth, and that I would not rely on any other person for my relationship with Jesus Christ.  My loyalty would be first and foremost to the Lord before anything else.   I began to fast and pray more diligently for light and truth and direction from the Lord.  Because I was seeking, during this time the Spirit of the Lord began to expound the scriptures unto me.  The Lord taught me through the word of God.  Passages of scriptures which I had read before and thought I understood were opened up unto me with clarity and a completely new perspective.  It was as if there was a conduit from heaven coming down into the scriptures and flowing into me.  It was overwhelming and delicious, but sometimes the things I learned scared me; shaking me to the very marrow of my bones because it revealed my wicked and awful state before God.  However, the things the Lord taught me by the power of the Holy Ghost through the scriptures has always been edifying, logical, pure intelligence, and full of light and truth.

The first scripture the Lord opened up unto me was the account of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Ether. From the Brother of Jared’s personal encounter with the Lord, I learned what it meant to be redeemed from the fall: It is to receive the “Second Comforter”. (John14:15-21, D&C130:3) To be in the literal presence of Jesus Christ and speak with Him face to face. 

“And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.”  (Ether 3:13)

This is what Moses sought diligently for the Children of Israel to receive.  (Exodus 19:7-11,20:18-21, D&C84:23-27)

This is what it means to have the actual Melchezidek priesthood.  (JST Genesis 14:25-32)
This is what it means to come unto Christ.  (3rd Nephi 18:25, 15:24)
This is the “end” of the “enduring to the end” of the Doctrine of Christ. (2nd Nephi 32:6)

Coming into the presence of Jesus Christ is a commandment.  In Chapter 4 of the Book of the Ether the Lord commands both the Jew and Gentile to come unto Him. 

“And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh.”
(Ether 4:7–8)

“Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.”
(Ether 4:13–15)

It is unbelief that keeps us from the presence of Jesus Christ, it is unbelief that keeps the heavens close.  (Moroni 7:37) It is by faith that miracles are wrought.  It is our faith which allows us to behold the face of Jesus Christ.  So the question I had after being taught this is: How does one have faith even as the Brother of Jared?

I took this concern to the Lord and He taught me what faith truly is and how I am to have faith even as the Brother of Jared did.  Our Lord is not an aloof God.  He answers prayers and He taught me what faith really is.   By the grace of God I was able to obtain a copy of a book about a week or two later which has forever changed my life: The Lectures on Faith. 

The Lectures on Faith is a series of lectures written and prepared by Joseph Smith which contains the LEADING ITEMS of the religion which He professed to believe.   It teaches us how we are to have faith, even like the Brother of Jared did, to come to know God.   In the preface to Lectures on Faith in the 1835 edition Joseph wrote: 

“We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe. The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place. And in consequence of their embracing the important doctrines of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work. We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that. We are to be called the answer to every principle advanced.”

He defended every principle advanced in Lectures on Faith. Before publishing it as scripture, it was presented to a council of the church to be sustained as scripture.

“On 17 August 1835, a general assembly of the church met for the purpose of examining a book of Commandments and Covenants that had been compiled and written by the publications committee.” [Joseph Smith headed the publications committee.] “This committee having finished the said book according to the instructions given them, it was deemed necessary to call the General Assembly of the Church to see if the book be approved or not by the authorities of the Church. That it may, if approved, become a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice of the same.” (JS Papers, Revelations and translations, Vol 2, beginning on page 311)

In the JS Papers, Revelations and Translations, Vol. 2, beginning on page 565 and running through page 567 you can read the account of how the Lectures on Faith was canonized on August 17, 1835 as the Doctrine and Covenants was approved by the church as scripture.

After all the quorums of the church had accepted the Doctrine and Covenants, the first 70 some pages of which were Lectures on Faith, the general assembly voted.  Everyone present voted, including women and children. They all sustained this as the “Doctrine” of the church. When that step was taken it became a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice to be followed thereafter.
The print of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants physically emphasizes the priority of the Lectures over the revelations. Lectures is identified as “Theology” and is printed in the first 74 pages in larger, apparently 12 pitch type. The revelations begin on page 75 under the title “Part Second” and are in smaller, 9 or 10-pitch type. Visual inspection of the document in the photostatic reproduction available through the Joseph Smith Papers shows the apparent priority of the Lectures over the revelations.

The Lectures on Faith is Joseph Smith’s commentary on the Doctrine of Christ and that religion which was restored to the earth through him.  It is of great importance. Our salvation is dependent upon abiding by the principles laid out in that book.  It is scripture.  Joseph Smith vouched for it and the church sustained it to be part of the standard works.  So why is not in the current LDS edition of the Doctrine and Covenants?

It was removed from the scriptures in 1921 by a committee of 6 church leaders who thought they knew better concerning the character, perfections, and attributes of God than the only president of LDS church to have actually proclaimed to have stood in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith called the Lectures “doctrine”—important doctrine. “Leading items of the religion.” He declared he would answer to every principle advanced in their content.  It was sustained unanimously by the members of the church as a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice of the same. 
When this committee of 6 men removed the Lectures on Faith from the scriptures they disregarded the rule of faith, the law of the church, and abandoned true doctrine.    They denied Joseph Smith’s testimony of the content and therefore have rejected him as a prophet. 

The Lectures on Faith has been the most influential book in my life because it taught me what faith is and how to obtain it.  When you have a correct knowledge of what faith is and the object upon which it rests, you can then properly exercise faith and enjoy the effect which flow from it.  In February 2015 I came to the conclusion that I needed to do the will of the Lord before anything else.  I did as Joseph Smith counsels in the 6th Lecture on Faith.  I went to the Lord and submitted myself fully to Him.  I didn’t have much to offer, but I placed everything I had, including the one thing which was most dear and close to my heart at the time, on the altar of sacrifice to the Lord.  I gave it all to the Lord placing it all in His hands and told Him “not my will, but thine, be done”.  The Lord accepted my sacrifice and took what was necessary to align my life with His will.  Over the course of the next few weeks the Lord orchestrated several events that needed to take place before the conclusion of my mission.  After I fulfilled what the Lord needed me to do, He called me home by His voice.  He made it known unto me that my service as an LDS missionary was complete and that I accomplished what He needed me to accomplish in the Philippines, at that time, in the 16 months I served. The Lord had a different work for me and I was needed elsewhere.  Because I had chosen to fully submit myself to the Lord, my service to Him has not been limited to a full-time proselyting church-mission.  Although I am still unworthy do be in His Holy presence and do stumble often, and am at His constant mercy, my entire life belongs to God.

Because I had placed everything I held dear to me on the altar of sacrifice, submitting myself to Jesus Christ giving it all to the Lord, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Lord was able to alter the course of my life to one which is in a greater accordance with the will of God.  The path that God has place me on has brought me far-far away from the LDS Church Inc., but it has brought me ever closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Lectures on Faith has been long forgotten by the mainstream Mormon community, but it is not completely lost.  I am so grateful to have found that book.  It is the most influential book I have ever read and it has forever changed the course of my life.  It is because of the teachings in the Lectures on Faith I was able to receive the voice of the Lord and have been blessed to witness His miraculous hand in abundance in my life.  I cannot go into detail here about what the Lectures contain, but let be sufficient for me to say it contains in short the leading items of the religion which I profess to believe.  I testify it is scripture.  If you want to understand the actual religion (not the legally recognized church organization that came as a result) that was restored through Joseph Smith, then go read the Lectures on Faith.  If you desire to have that personal intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, then study and apply those Lectures in your own life so that you can have faith, even as the Brother of Jared did, sufficient unto life and salvation to be redeemed from the fall and to know the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Here is a free PDF file of The Lectures on Faith

1 comment:

  1. I talk about the importance of Lectures on Faith in a recent blog post. I love the Lectures on Faith and I see what it teaches all over the scriptures including the BoM.