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Sacrament Talk on Moroni's Appearance to Joseph and D&C 2


PUTTING OURSELVES IN JOSEPH’S SHOES

After the events of the First Vision, Joseph was thrilled for a little while with the joy of having obtained a remission of his sins and receiving knowledge that would lead to what we call the Restoration. Sometime later though, Joseph writes:

“I fell into transgressions and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul.” (1832 First Vision account)

“I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.” (JS-History 1:28)

As one historian has put it:

“[For Joseph, the First Vision] vision produce[d] an unsuccessful conversion, followed by a deep spiritual despondency." (The  Mormon Jesus, p. 67)

............

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why are you leading your talk off on such a negative note?”

To put it simply, this is the context of Joseph Smith’s spiritual state right before the angel Moroni appears to him for the first time. I do not know about you, but I more readily see myself in Joseph’s story when I understand that Joseph struggled spiritually after his First Vision theophany AND his purpose of reaching out to God again was to obtain forgiveness of his sins, again.

Joseph was very much like Nephi who lamented about “the sins which do easily beset [him] (2 Nephi 4:18), but almost in the same breath, gives thanks for “giving him knowledge by visions” and “angels [coming] down and ministering unto [him]” (2 Nephi 4:23-24).

With all this said, I think we can literally put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes here which will only enhance our understanding and help us glimpse what kind of access we have to spiritual privileges.

THE BOOK OF MORMON

Joseph’s initial visitation from the angel Moroni is when The Book of Mormon first enters in discussion in our dispensation. Moroni, after telling Joseph he was forgiven of his sins (1832 account), tells Joseph of a Book deposited nearby which contained “the fulness of the everlasting Gospel, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient Inhabitants”. For me, this begs the question: “What does Moroni mean when he says it contains the fulness of the everlasting Gospel?”

“The fulness of the gospel consists in those laws, doctrines, ordinances, powers, and authorities needed to enable men to gain the fulness of salvation. Those who have the gospel fulness do not necessarily enjoy the fulness of gospel knowledge or understand all of the doctrines of the plan of salvation. But they do have the fulness of the priesthood and sealing power by which men can be sealed up unto eternal life. The fulness of the gospel grows out of the fulness of the sealing power and not out of the fulness of gospel knowledge.” – Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Doctrine, p. 237)

At least for me, this transitions immediately into the next thing Moroni will tell Joseph.

ELIJAH AND THE TEMPLE

Moroni proceeds to quote Malachi 4 to Joseph with some slight deviations:

For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”

I would note here that this revelation given to Joseph through Moroni occurred in 1823. Note Moroni’s phrasing: He says that the priesthood would be revealed by Elijah. We know that the Aaronic Priesthood was restored 5 ½ years later under the hands of John the Baptist. We know that the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored shortly after that under the hands of Peter, James, and John. Why was Moroni’s attention on Elijah, who doesn’t appear unto Joseph Smith until April of 1836? What did he mean that the Priesthood would be revealed by Elijah and not mention these other angelic ministrants?

The following commentary might be instructive:

“"The holy priesthood is administered to the children of men according to different orders. As Joseph Smith taught, “All priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it” (Teachings, p. 180).

[What the scriptures call] the preparatory gospel (law of Moses) operates under that order we know as Aaronic. The fulness of the everlasting gospel operates under different orders. The Church operates under an ecclesiastical order of offices, quorums, and councils… In addition, one enters into [what the Book of Mormon calls] the Holy Order of God through proving worthy of all the blessings of the temple, through eventually receiving what the scriptures call the fulness of the priesthood.

President Ezra Taft Benson thus explained: “To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord” (Ensign, August 1985, p. 8)." - Joseph Fielding McConkie & Robert Millett (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol 3.)

In other words, Moroni, from the even before any order of the priesthood was restored, was anticipating the restoration of the ordinances of the Temple. This might give us insight into why Elder Bednar and Elder Maxwell define sheaves to be gathered newly baptized members of the church and why they define the garners the sheaves are to be gathered into as “the holy temples” (Honorably Hold a Name and Standing, April 2009 GC).

HEARTS WILL TURN TO THE FATHERS

Even further, all this might give further insight into what is meant by turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and vice versa. President Ballard gives the following insight:

"… the Church is the scaffold with which we build eternal families. There are two principal reasons why I appreciate [this] metaphor for the Church—as scaffolding for our eternal families. First, it helps me understand what the Church is. Second, and equally important, I understand what the Church is not.”
That’s an interesting perspective, isn’t it? Although the Church plays a pivotal role in
proclaiming, announcing, and administering the necessary ordinances of salvation and exaltation, all of that, as important as it is, is really just the scaffolding being used in an infinite and eternal construction project to build, support, and strengthen the family. And just as scaffolding is eventually taken down and put away to reveal the final completed building, so too will the mortal, administrative functions of the Church eventually fade as the eternal family comes fully into view. In that context, it’s important to remember that our Church assignments are only temporary, and that at some point we will all be released either by our leaders or by death. But we will never be released from our eternal callings within the family." - M. Russell Ballard ("Women of Dedication, Faith, Determination, and Action", 2015 BYU Women's Conference, bold added for emphasis)

I would submit to you brothers and sisters that Moroni choose his words carefully when he quoted Malachi 4 in what has now become D&C Section 2. The priesthood that would be revealed by Elijah the prophet that would turn children’s and father’s hearts to one another is the sealing power that extends beyond our scaffolding and ecclesiastical institutions. Moroni foresaw how temples would construct heaven on earth welding link by welding link on the anvil of the temple altar.

With all this in mind, I find it interesting how Moroni appeared of a number of more times that same night and reiterated the same message “without the least deviation”.

UTTERLY WASTED

All this taken together gives further insight into what the Lord meant that the earth would be utterly wasted at His coming if Elijah had not come.

The 1828 Webster's dictionary defines wasted as "Expended without necessity or use; lost through negligence; squandered."

Nephi succinctly describes the purpose of the earth in 1 Nephi 17:36 

"Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it"

To put it succinctly, possessing the earth is in reference to the hear and now. The sealing power of Elijah seals that possession as a Zion people create heaven on earth.

Again, this all suggests the sealing power of Elijah includes more than sealing families. It concretizes our relationships and our inheritance of the earth. It enables us to fulfill the measure of our creation by transforming the creation around us. The earth will not be wasted but will blossom and be renewed.

When the Savior returns and burns things to stubble, there will also be a portion of creation, relationships, and individuals who have already been transformed bit by bit. For me, this suggests that the power given through Elijah is in part given to prevent our portions of creation and our relationships from being wasted. This can begin in the hear and now. We can reanimate the world around us. We can heal hearts. We can allow our relationships to bloom.

"When Satan is bound in a single home—when Satan is bound in a single life—the Millennium has already begun in that home, in that life." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 172)


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