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April 2023 Conference Talk by Russell Anderson

We live in marvelous and troubling times. A time of revelation and turmoil. We look at the signs of the times and see the fulfillment of scriptures. We read in Luke chapter 21 verse 26 about a time before the coming of the Savior:

“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  (Luke 21:26-27)

We don’t know when the Savior will come. Matthew chapter 25 verse 13 tells us that “ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 25:13) Although John Pratt’s work with the Toltec calendar indicates that we might know the year.

We know that we live in a marvelous time of revelation and restoration. We read in Revelation chapter 14 verse 16 how we need to be prepared for the judgement of God.

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Rev. 14:16-17)

As we think about the hour of judgement, we can ask ourselves if we are ready. This might remind us of the parable of the 10 virgins and their preparation for the coming of the bridegroom from Matthew chapter 25.

"And then, at that day, before the Son of Man comes, the kingdom of heaven shall be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

And five of them were wise, and five of them were foolish.

They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

And the foolish said unto the wise, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.”

But the wise answered, saying, “Lest there be not enough for us and you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, “Lord, Lord, open unto us.”

But he answered and said, “Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not.”

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." (Matt 25:1-12 IV)

In October 1830 we were told that the Lord would “come quickly.”

“And the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction; and the power of my Spirit quickeneth all things.

Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—

For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly. Even so. Amen.” (D&C 33:16-18)

If the Lord was coming soon in 1830, how much sooner is that coming in our time? So, how do we fill our lamps with oil? I remember liking this quote from Spencer W. Kimball’s book, “Faith Precedes the Miracles,” where he described what the oil represents:

“In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living. Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 256)

But that definition doesn’t agree with our scriptures. In the Doctrine and Covenant section 45 verses 56 and 57 we are told exactly what the oil represents and how we can prepare.

“And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.

For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.” (D&C 45:56-57)

From this we learn that those that have oil in our lamp are “they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide.” How do we take the Holy Spirit for our guide?

First of all, it requires that we be humble and teachable. We need to be like children as discussed by King Benjamin in Mosiah chapter 3 verse 19:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19, Emphasis Added)

Notice the characteristics we need that are childlike: “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict” upon us.

We may have allowed our passions to rule our spirits which clouds our vision and limits the influence of the spirit in our lives. We can’t hear the still small voice of the spirit when our desires are out of control.

In the book of Alma chapter 29 verse 4 we read that God will give us according to our desires, whether those desires are good or bad, God will do as we desire. He says,

“I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.” (Alma 29:4)

So, we have to be very careful about our desires. We need to be humble and childlike in our desires and listen to the Spirit. I was reading recently this statement:

“To have a childlike attitude when it comes to reading the scriptures means that we allow the scriptures to correct us and to challenge our beliefs. It means that we seek out what the scriptures are saying instead of what we want them to say.” (Feasting Upon the Word, p. 47)

After Joseph and Hyrum were killed, Brigham Young led many of the Saints west to Utah. There were many things that Brigham didn’t understand. At one time he had the opportunity to ask Joseph in a dream about the law of adoption or sealing. He says,

“I then discovered there was a hand rail between us, Joseph stood by a window, and to the southwest of him it was very light. I was in the twilight and to the north of me it was very dark; I said, “Brother Joseph, the brethren you know well, better than I do; you raised them up, and brought the Priesthood to us. The brethren have a great anxiety to understand the law of adoption or sealing principles; and if you have a word of counsel for me, I should be glad to receive it.”

“Joseph stepped toward me, and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly said, “tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized and in great confusion.” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 1, p. 188.)

You will notice that Joseph never answered Brigham’s question. It was a misunderstanding on the law of adoption that allowed Brigham and the LDS church to claim that Joseph had many wives, when in fact he only had one wife. But from Joseph’s perspective the law of adoption was not important. What was more important for the people to realize is that they needed to follow the Spirit. Are we willing to listen to the Spirit and make changes in our lives as directed?

In the Book of Mormon, we read about King Lamoni who grew up in Lamanite culture. And being part of Lamanite culture, he developed a certain belief system. One of these beliefs was that as a king he believed that whatsoever thing he did was right. Thus, if he was unhappy with his servants, he was justified in killing them. The other belief he developed was that Nephi and Lehi had wronged his forefathers, Laman and Lemuel. Both of these beliefs shaped how he interacted with the world. But those beliefs were challenged when he met Ammon and observed the works of Ammon.

In such a situation, King Lamoni made a choice to open himself to change. He humbled himself and submitted to God.

Can we humble ourselves? Are we willing to listen to the Spirit in our lives. We live in a troubled world, full of conflict. Where is peace and safety?

Many of us came from different religious groups that all followed the restoration begun by Joseph Smith Jr. In the process of joining with the many who believe we have a revelation from the Sealed Book of Mormon record, some of us had to cut ties with those good organizations. It bothers us when we can’t get people, we love to at least examine the Sealed Book. Or they might read it like my good friend Denver Snuffer, but he doesn’t want to take the step of asking God if it is true. He told me, “One of the reasons I mentioned that I had reasoned this out and not asked God was to leave open the freedom to choose to accept and believe these claims. The best way to acquire the ability to distinguish between truth and error is to actually make the choice. If someone chooses wrongly, that is not bad. It is educational and gives experience. People who cannot tell the difference NEED to make mistakes so they gain the experience and wisdom to tell the difference.”

I don’t know why Denver wants the opportunity to be wrong about the Sealed Book. In a May 2018 blog post he called the Sealed Book and Book of Mormon plates Bogus.

John Pratt told me how excited he was when he returned after his first trip to Brazil and how he went straight to Denver’s office and told him about his experience and how he had been shown the gold plates. But he said that Denver didn’t show much interest. I believe it might have been because John expressed the belief that Mauricio was Joseph Smith. As Denver explained, “to me that’s a big problem. I met Joseph Smith, and he’s definitely on the other side.”

Interestingly Mauricio makes no such claim, he says,

“There are several rumors that I might be Joseph Smith in the Eternal Circle. But these are just rumors from those who want to believe it. The only thing I endorse is that Joseph's prophetic mantle has been laid upon me, but I don't think that makes me him in this life. Surely, he must be on the other side by now.”

Mauricio also added, “One thing I'm sure of, though I don't yet know how, but Denver's mission will no doubt culminate in this one in the future. therefore, his mission being as true as mine.”

I firmly believe that there are many people being led by the Lord that are not currently associated with us. They have taken the “Holy Spirit for their guide” and they have oil in their lamps.  There will come a day when they will join with us in the work of the Lord.

As we look at friends, relatives and close associates, let us not assume that we are better than anyone. Our individual agency is a very important principle in our Father’s plan. Let us look inside ourselves and realize that we still have a lot of growth and development. Examine your heart and ask the Lord where you need to repent and how you need to serve God. Let us fill our lamps so we are prepared for the Savior by taking the Holy Spirit for our guide.

We also need to ask ourselves how much we are willing to do so that we can know the Lord. Are we willing to make the effort to be in tune with the Spirit? This last month we celebrated St. Patrick day. They say that St. Patrick would pray 100 times a day. I don’t know how that is possible, but it tells us that he was willing to humble himself before the Lord. Are we willing to truly humble ourselves, fast, pray and make the sacrifices necessary?

In the Lectures on Faith the prophet Joseph Smith tells us:

“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.” ("Lectures on Faith" 6:7)

Some of us might think that there is a simpler path. Rather than humbling themselves so that they can hear and understand the Spirit, rather than taking the Holy Spirit for their guide, they figure that they can just follow a man.

Many of you with LDS background will be very familiar with this chorus from a Primary Song, “Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, don’t go astray, Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way.” That song has been used and applied to anyone that wants to assume the title of prophet, even if that title is not correct.

We can look at the history of the LDS church and see many times that they have been led astray by their prophet. Here are a few examples:

  • Adam-God – Brigham’s claim that Adam was God the Father
  • Blacks and the Priesthood – Not allowing Blacks to hold the priesthood. 
  • Blood Atonement – A claim that some sins require our blood to be shed.
  • Priesthood Ordination process – do we confer priesthood first?
  • Brigham Young didn’t allow the Sacrament for 6 months.
  • Re-baptism – It was encouraged and allowed until 1893.
  • Temple ordinances – Changed over time, significantly in 1990 and 2023.
  • Prophet, Seers and Revelators – use & definition changes with time.
  • Presiding Patriarch – Changes in status and eliminated in 1979

The scriptures warn us very strongly to not trust in the arm of flesh. Notice where we are told to put our trust in 2 Nephi chapter 4 verse 34:

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (2 Nephi 4:34)

Joseph Smith Jr. gave us similar advice when he told the people that depending on the prophet will darken your mind.

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 237-8)

Joseph Smith echoed the same council as Nephi. We need to trust in the Lord. We need to listen to the Spirit and follow as directed so that we may come into the presence of the Lord as outlined in Doctrine and Covenants sections 88 and 93 [D&C 88:67-68, 93:1]

I have enjoyed immensely my opportunity to learn more about Joseph Smith Jr.’s son, Joseph Smith III. From my LDS background I can remember ridiculing the idea that the official church name could be the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I believed what I was told, that Joseph Smith III was used by Emma and others to try and give some credibility to their organization.

But recently I have been spending some time getting acquainted with Joseph Smith III. I read a biography on him and I have read most of his Memoirs. It was exciting to see that he was following the will of the Lord in his actions.

Leading up to 1859 he had serious trials. He and his brother Frederick were seriously in debt. Their financial problems were used by his wife’s family to drive a wedge between he and his wife. In 1859 his second child was born but she died later that year.

In a Joseph Smith III biography, the author tells us:

“Joseph Smith felt as if he were being punished by God, that he was somehow being tested as Job had been in an earlier day.” … “Smith received the final answer for which he had ‘hungered’ in the fall of 1859. In an 1880 Autobiography Joseph Smith reported that while praying for an explanation of his troubles he received a divine message–that the Saints reorganized at Zarahemla and other places, is the only organized portion of the Church accepted by me. I have given them my Spirit and will continue to do so while they remain humble and faithful.’" (Joseph Smith III, Pragmatic Prophet, p. 109)

That is an amazing revelation from the Lord that of course we never learned in the LDS church. When Joseph attended the RLDS conference in April 1860, he told them:

“I would say to you, brethren, as I hope you may be, and in faith I trust you are, as a people that God has promised his blessings upon, I came not here of myself, but by the influence of the Spirit. For some time past I have received manifestations pointing to the position which I am about to assume. I wish to say that I have come here not to be dictated by any men or set of men. I have come in obedience to a power not my own, and shall be dictated by the power that sent me. God works by means best known to himself, and I feel that for some time past he has been pointing out a work for me to do.”

And now at this conference we are presented with a Doctrine and Covenants that includes revelations from Joseph Smith III. I was excited to review those revelations and some of His comments at that time.

It is interesting to compare the life and ministry of Brigham Young with Joseph Smith III.

Brigham Young is quoted as saying in 1844:

"For the first time in my life, for the first time in your lives, for the first time in the kingdom of God in the 19th century, without a Prophet at our head . . . Heretofore you have had a prophet as the mouth of the Lord to speak to you. But he [Joseph Smith] has sealed his testimony with his blood, and now, for the first time, are you called to walk by faith, and not by sight. . . You cannot fill the office of a prophet, seer and revelator: God must do this." -  August 8th, 1844 discourse (Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 20)

Then in 1853 Brigham said:

“I am not a visionary man, neither am I given much to prophesying. When I want any of that done, I call on brother Heber—he is my Prophet, he loves to prophesy, and I love to hear him” - April 6, 1853 (Journal of Discourses, 1:132-133).

In 1857 Brigham said:

"I am not going to interpret dreams; for I don't profess to be such a Prophet as were Joseph Smith and Daniel; but I am a Yankee guesser” (July 26 1857 - Journal of Discourses 5:77)

In the LDS Doctrine & Covenants there is section 136 that claims to be the Lord’s words to Brigham Young. The history of that revelation is interesting.

From the Journal History we have the following which shows that 7 brethren met together for 4 hours, then the Twelve met for three hours and then Young and Richards finished writing this “revelation” at the Octagon building. So, we have a total of 7-8 hours to write this Word and Will of the Lord which comprises 42 verses. This is not a “Thus Sayeth the Lord” type of revelation that we got from Joseph Smith Jr.

However, we do get the Lord’s words in the revelations from Joseph Smith III. In talking about RLDS D&C 119, he tells us in his Memoirs:

The Voice of the Spirit came to me in such plain and unmistakable terms that it was no wonder the revelation was promptly and unanimously accepted for the government and guidance of the church. (Memoirs, p. 468)

And in talking about Doctrine and Covenants section 124 Joseph said:

“It will be noticed that in the reception and embodiment of the revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants as Section 124, there was a marked change in the method employed. That I was directed to write gives the communication the characteristic of apparent dictation. I seemed to feel and recognize the presence of an Administrator by whom the counsel was delivered to me, and I was more sensibly impressed by the personification of the Spirit in form than I had ever been before–if that were possible.

Upon two or three occasions in my life, when occupying in the pulpit I had been permitted to preach as if consciously aware of the nearness of some Divine Personage. This Personage at one of these times placed his hand upon my shoulder with a sufficient degree of pressure as to make me sensibly aware of his presence. So, I was in the ministration of the dictation received in this revelation of 1897” (Memoirs, p. 469)

Joseph also tells us about receiving D&C 125:

“Before entering further upon the business, I have something to present. I spent a sleepless night. After retiring to my rest, weary, as you must know, I engaged in a season of prayer quietly, as I had been doing all day; and I suddenly found myself very wide awake; and from that on, I was in the Spirit, the Spirit of inspiration burning in my breast; and by it I was bidden to come to the house of assembly and tell what was given to me of light and instruction. I trust that it shall be so to you.” (RLDS D&C 125 STATEMENT AND REVELATION)

I started by talking about troubling times and turmoil. I want to end by encouraging us to see the wonder and beauty in this mighty creation. See the light of Christ in the eyes of people and strive to be a positive influence to all that you meet.

It is my hope and prayer that we will humble ourselves so that we can listen and feel the Spirit and take action as directed by the Spirit. We can learn from the examples of Joseph Smith III and Mauricio Berger. I plead that we will make the effort so that we will have oil in our lamps.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.