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Condemned and Rejected

Ezra Taft BensonIn both the April and October 1986 conferences, president Ezra Taft Benson pointed our attention to verses in D&C 84 that indicates that the church was under condemnation because they had not remembered the Book of Mormon. April 1986 was his first conference talk as president of the church. Below are some excerpts from those talks. (emphasis added)

April 1986 Conference Talk

Cleansing the Inner Vessel

Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel (see Alma 60:23), beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church.

A prophet of God stated, “Ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow … until the good shall overcome the bad.” (Jacob 5:66.) It takes a Zion people to make a Zion society, and we must prepare for that.
. . .

Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: “And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.” (D&C 84:56.) The Lord continues: “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.” (D&C 84:57.)

Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. Why? The Lord answers: “That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” (D&C 84:58.) We have felt that scourge and judgment!

The Prophet Joseph said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book.” The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.

October 1986 Conference Talk

The Book of Mormon--Keystone of Our Religion

In 1829, the Lord warned the Saints that they are not to trifle with sacred things (see D&C 6:12). Surely the Book of Mormon is a sacred thing, and yet many trifle with it, or in other words, take it lightly, treat it as though it is of little importance.

In 1832, as some early missionaries returned from their fields of labor, the Lord reproved them for treating the Book of Mormon lightly. As a result of that attitude, he said, their minds had been darkened. Not only had treating this sacred book lightly brought a loss of light to themselves, it had also brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon” (D&C 84:54–57).

Has the fact that we have had the Book of Mormon with us for over a century and a half made it seem less significant to us today? Do we remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon? In the Bible we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament is the English rendering of a Greek word that can also be translated as covenant. Is this what the Lord meant when He called the Book of Mormon the “new covenant”? It is indeed another testament or witness of Jesus. This is one of the reasons why we have recently added the words “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to the title of the Book of Mormon.

If the early Saints were rebuked for treating the Book of Mormon lightly, are we under any less condemnation if we do the same? The Lord Himself bears testimony that it is of eternal significance. Can a small number of us bring the whole Church under condemnation because we trifle with sacred things? What will we say at the Judgment when we stand before Him and meet His probing gaze if we are among those described as forgetting the new covenant?

Here we have the prophet of the church telling us that we have “felt that scourge and judgment” and the fact that we have had the Book of Mormon for 150 years and were not taking it seriously, “are we under any less condemnation if we do the same?” 

Prophet and president Ezra Taft Benson woke us up to the condemnation we were facing because we didn’t adequately appreciate the Book of Mormon. Did we ever come out from under that condemnation? Has any of our prophets since that time given us the comforting word of God that we are no longer under that  “scourge and judgment”? Dalin H. Oaks continues that theme and mentions in 1993 & 2010 that the condemnation has continued.

I've carefully considered all of the reasons President Benson has given for studying the Book of Mormon. One reason stands out above all the rest. I believe that it was the neglect--the treating lightly--of this subject that brought the early Church under condemnation. I believe it is the neglect of this subject that has continued the condemnation in our own day.

Think about that. Prophets telling us that we should apply the designation to ourselves--that we are “under condemnation”. That is an amazing thought. If we can take that scripture to mean what it says, can we also take other scriptures to mean what they say?

Church Rejected?

D & C 124:32

32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.

We have many of the “apostles and prophets” of this dispensation taking verse 32 very seriously. In October 1996 general conference Boyd. K. Packer made the following statement about this verse.
During a very difficult time, the Lord gave the sternest warning that I know of in all scripture. It had to do with the building of the Nauvoo Temple. The Saints knew from experience that to proceed to build a temple would bring terrible persecution, so they delayed. The Lord extended the time and said, “If you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.”

Nauvoo Temple Replica But the Nauvoo Temple was finished and dedicated. Wasn't it? To know the answer to that question we must examine the history of the Nauvoo Temple.

We can see that:
  • The Nauvoo Temple was never completed as even Brigham Young tells us.
  • The Twelve were actively seeking to sell the temple even before the dedication
  • There was no expectation to ever use the "dedicated" Nauvoo temple
  • The Lord didn't fulfill his covenant or restore "the fullness of the priesthood"

How can we tell if the Lord thought the Temple was finished?

Joseph Fielding Smith gives us a criteria: "the thing the revelation does require is that a place be prepared, or built, where the Lord could reveal the Priesthood and its ordinances which had been taken away" So did such a restoration take place? All Joseph Fielding Smith needs to do, to quickly silence any critics is to show that the restoration took place and that now we have the priesthood which D&C 124:28 says in 1841 that the church DID NOT have. It tells us that, "there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood."

The saints were very concerned about being “rejected with our dead” if they didn't finish the temple. But did they succeed in avoiding the curse? We can look at the other promises that the Lord gave that would go along with the completion of the temple and by looking at them we can we should be able to tell if the temple was completed as required.

40 And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;
41 For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.
42 And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.
43 And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.
44 If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.
45 And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.
46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.
(D&C 124:40-48)

28 - Did the Lord "restore again that which was lost"? - No
40 – Did the Lord reveal any ordinances in the Nauvoo temple? – Not in Nauvoo or at a later temple
41 – Did God reveal in temple things “hid from before the foundation of the world?” - No
44 – Were the saints moved by their enemies? - Yes
45 – Were they “moved out of their place?” - Yes
46 – Did they get the blessing? - No
47 – Did the saint do what was asked and bind the Lord to bless them? - No
48 – Did they receive cursings, wrath, indignation and judgements? - Yes

By all the measured provided in this revelation, it appears that the saints didn't fulfill their requirements, nor did the Lord fulfill the covenants that he had promised if it had been completed on time.

The only conclusion we are left with is that the Saints didn't finish the temple, they didn't get the blessings that were promised from the temple and in fact were only left with the results as outlined in verse 32 that they “shall be rejected as a church, with your dead”. A very sobering thought.

But the church can't be rejected. It does so many good things and many people testify of great spiritual experiences as they learn about the truths and participate in the activities and experiences that come with membership in the church. It MUST BE TRUE.

Of course we have a strong desire to believe that the church hasn't been condemned or rejected. We have committed our lives to the church and its programs. What can these scriptures mean. Why do we NEED the church to be "true" and the "Lords true church". Is it Our Will or the Lord's Will that we are seeking. Can we accept the scriptures, or must they be ignored if they don't adapt to our desires.

According to our wills

I was once pondering how people could claim wonderful spiritual experiences for a path that seemed opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then I noticed in the scriptures how important our agency is to God. He will support us and even put words into the mouths of prophets that are not the truth. We are being tested to whether we will follow God.

We have the example of the Jews that wouldn't accept "the words of plainness" and so God gave them what they wanted.

Jacob 4:14

14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

Has the Lord given us what WE wanted? Have we accepted a condemned and rejected church rather than approaching God and finding out what He wants for us?

When the Lord restored the gospel through Joseph Smith, the goal was not to create a Zion church. It was to provide the foundation for a Zion people. We seem to want God to create an organization that will take care of us. We fail to realize that we are the work in progress. We need to make the changes in our lives so that we can be accepted in Zion. We need to overcome our tendencies toward pride, greed, lust, envy, etc.

Follow the Prophet

The thought has been constantly drummed into us that we need to Follow the Prophet and he will never lead us astray. However, the scriptures teach us that those that depend on a man to lead them instead of the Lord will end up in the telestial kingdom. (D&C 76:98-102) We are directed that we should NOT trust in the arm of flesh (2 Nephi 28:31).

D & C 1:19-20

19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh
20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

Take the Holy Spirit for our guide

If we are going to have oil in our lamp we have to take the Holy Spirit for our guide. We can't depend on a man to lead us.  The Savior is the "keeper of the gate" and He "employeth no servant there" (2 Ne. 9:41). We have to learn to listen to the Spirit and follow where it directs. This is the iron rod. It takes personal revelation to reach the Tree of Life.

D & C 45:56-57

56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
57 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.