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Come Follow Me Insights (Doctrine and Covenants 93)
|Title||Come Follow Me Insights (Doctrine and Covenants 93)|
|Year of Publication||2021|
|Authors||Halverson, Taylor, and Tyler J. Griffin|
|Publisher||Book of Mormon Central|
|Place Published||Springville, UT|
|Keywords||Doctrine; Element; Intelligences; Jesus Christ; Parenthood|
In this week's powerful and touching lesson, explore the vast truths found in Section 93. Taylor and Tyler go into the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to show that He is the ultimate source of knowledge, truth, and light.
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Come Follow Me Class Insights – 35 – D&C Section 93
I'm Taylor, and I'm Tyler. This is Book of Mormon Central's Come Follow Me Insights. Today Doctrine and Covenants section 93.
When you open up the scriptures to section 93, we're telling it this is one of the biggest mountain peak revelations in the history of the world. I would put section 93 up against the most famous philosophical writings or speeches of all time. This is a – this is a game changer section and it's deep, it's profound, it's broad. It's expansive in every way shape and form.
To begin, before we dive into this section, let me start with one of my favorite quotes from President Boyd K. Packer. He said true doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior. A study of the doctrines of the gospel will change attitudes and behavior quicker than a study of behavior will change behavior. So we live in a world that is constantly telling us how to live and what is true or making these truth claims. It's fascinating to look at section 93, this deep, profound, filled with doctrine section and if we take President Packer's comments literally, he's saying if we understood this true doctrine deeply, this will have a more powerful effect on our belief, our attitudes and our behaviors than any time we could spend talking about how to fix the world's problems or the ills by talking about behaviors that need to be done because it empowers agency. Section 93 is all about helping us understand who God is, who we are and who the opposition is as it comes out here.
Now just for the setting, you have the entire first presidency in May of 1833 so that's Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams and then you also have the bishop in Kirtland, Newel K. Whitney. Those are the four men who are here and they're all mentioned in this section, not in exactly favorable ways. In fact, it's Newel K. Whitney, Bishop Whitney who commenting after the fact giving his overview of what they had received in section 93, here's what he said – quote, this was a revelation to Joseph, Sidney, Frederick, and Newel by chastisement, and also relative to the Father and Son.
It's interesting to me that he mentions it was given to us by chastisement – oh, and it also talks about the Father and the Son in there. The chastisement section is really, really small and kind of isolated there towards the end but the rest of the section is huge when it comes to the doctrine of the Father and the Son and yet, I believe that Newel K. Whitney here is revealing one aspect of human nature that a lot of us can relate to and that is, if you get lots of positive feedback and then a little bit of corrective feedback or something that could be perceived as negative, human tendency is to focus traditionally on that little negative element that came or that correction that came, and that's exactly what happens here. The correction is very small in comparison to the bigger section, and yet if we study section 93 with open hearts and with our minds turned upward, chances are you and I are going to individually sense some places where we could improve, some maybe corrective feedback from the Spirit as we then take this section and apply it into our own lives, but our hope is that we don't walk away saying yah, this is a heavy, corrective section but rather, wow, this section opened my mind heavenward and I see things that I never saw before in ways that I've never seen them before, such that it motivates me to become more of who I have the power to become. Section 93 should be a major inducer of power to act, this empowerment of agency - that we don't need to be a victim of our circumstances as much as perhaps we feel we have in the past.
And our friend Steve Harper added to this by saying section 93 could also be seen as God's theology of parenting. So we have God described in these glorious terms, who his character is and what he is as a parent. We have Jesus as a firstborn Son and then it gets into the members of the first presidency and Newel K. Whitney all being chastised or maybe we could say it differently, encouraged to be better parents, better family people so it's almost like God is saying here's who I am and here's who you can be. You can be like me. You can be this great parent. So there's lots of very interesting ways to see this and I find Steve's idea, Steve Harper's idea a fascinating one that we can look at this to understand God as a parent and his invitation to us to be like him in families.
Beautiful. Now let's begin. This particular section is so good, we're going to try to take many of the verses here since we only have the one section to cover for this week, thank heaven. I don't know of any verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that is more powerful as far as what you and I – where God gives us on a silver platter, look, you want the formula, you want me to boil it down into just simple steps that I want you to take in order to become more like me? Verse 1, look at the order here: "Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass," notice the emphasis, there's not a lot of condition here. It's, "It shall come to pass." Now when the Lord says that, I think we can trust that it really will happen, it's as firm as the pillars of heaven is what's about to come here. So what is going to come to pass? "that every soul," once again, I love looking at these words like every – that's 100 percent of people, who, now here comes the conditions. Number one, "forsaketh his sins," number two, "and cometh unto me," number three, "and calleth on my name," number four, "and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments," now here's the promise, those five things are the conditions, here's the promise, "shall see my face and know that I am." You'll notice here that it's a two-way communication, this idea of come unto me, call on my name and obey my voice. Obey my voice implies that Jesus is speaking to us, so we speak, we call upon his name, he calls to us as the good shepherd, he gives us direction and we obey it. We don't listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and say I'm just curious what your thought is, okay thanks, I'll – yah – I'm not interested. It's when you come to him you call upon his name, it's the way Moroni chapter 10 describes our petition regarding the Book of Mormon, it's having faith in Christ with real intent. We come actually intending to listen to the Good Shepherd and follow what he says.
Now think about that for a minute, this glorious promise, that we can – and remember, it's every soul who does this, it shall come to pass. This is the promise, to see his face and know that he is. This is one of the grandest promises in all of scripture and it shows up in a variety of places, Ether 12, that whole chapter is about seeking this Jesus which means you go through the process of discipleship through the course of time growing as you experience life. That's what this entire section is about, is helping us to grow, to become more like Jesus until that perfect day when we'll see his face and know that he is. That is the most powerful verse to start one of the most powerful sections of any place I know in all of scripture which now brings us to verse 2 and this discussion of light and truth and intelligence and agency and ultimately, identity.
If we do our job right today, when we finish, you are going to feel a greater sense of not just who God the Father and who God the Son are, but of who you are and who you have the capacity to become like and not just capacity, but hopefully the drive and the desire and the hope to move forward in greater faith than you've ever had previously. That's what our scripture study should do, is not just fill our mind with answers to curiosity questions, but fill our mind and our heart with light and truth and perspective that empower us to actually rise up and to get up off of the dust and the ground of sin and the stain and soil of the world and walk that covenant path and become who we were intended to become and who Jesus Christ through his infinite atonement enables us to become. It's beautiful.
Now, fascinating that section 93 is taking – it's as if we're reading the fruits in 93 from very deep roots, tap roots that come from John, the gospel of John in the Bible, specifically John chapter 1, there are so many connecting points between section 93 and John chapter one. In my opinion, to really, if you want to understand section 93 better, it would be worth your time to read John chapter 1 side by side with it as you go through this particular lesson.
This is - John 1 is actually one of the powerful chapters in scripture and you get these beautiful phrases from John. We should just read some of them and talk about what is John trying to teach people about the character and nature of God which is also what's going on in D. & C. 93 and why is God revealing his character and nature? He wants us to have faith in him and to give us a standard that we can look to, to say I can become like God, I, through the grace and power of God can also develop a similar character and nature.
Isn't that a simple, yet extremely profound concept, that parents have children and they empower those children, they teach those children, they give to those children things, not just DNA, not just a body of some sort, but they empower those children and nurture them to the point where those children have the capacity to grow up to become like their parents if they respond appropriately to those nurturing and nourishing elements that are given. The essence of section 93 combined with John 1 is exactly what Taylor's saying here is God revealing to us his identity so that you and I have a vision of our future potential identity, that our heavenly parents are doing everything they can to help us become all that we can be which is to grow up to become like them over the course of time, and Jesus does that.
Now you'll notice in John, John's gospel is quite different than Matthew, Mark and Luke. We call Matthew, Mark and Luke the synoptic gospel because they see the same things; they focus on similar events and teachings of Jesus. John, he's very unique. So while Matthew and Luke, for instance, focus on the physical birth of Jesus, different elements surrounding the birth experience of Jesus. John doesn't go there. John goes to the eternal nature and identity of Christ. He's teaching us about who Jesus was before the foundation of the world, how he is this incredible God before we even come to this earth. Look at John chapter 1 verse 1: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God." We know Jesus is the word here, this logos, in Greek, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Did you notice that? That Jesus in the spirit form up in the pre-mortal realm, he was a God. He wasn't – he hadn't come down to the earth, he hadn't lived his mortal life and been resurrected yet, but he's considered a God under the direction of the Father, he is the one who creates all things.
Notice verse 2 and 3, "The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." The way that the Book of Mormon refers to this is King Benjamin in his speech calls Jesus the Father of heaven and of earth, through the creation he engenders new life in all of these things that we see in the heavens and in the earth so the Son of God takes on this new role as the Father of all creation, that our Heavenly Father delegates to him this responsibility or this right and privilege to do this creation and then you'll notice in verse 4, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
And then John shifts into the experience with John the Baptist and this experience of Jesus being baptized and so those same things and those same ideas of light and life and darkness and Jesus doing all things that the Father has commanded him to do whether it be creation or whether it be being baptized, that he's doing exactly what God wanted him to do and asked him to do and because of that, Jesus is growing. Now we get these really lofty doctrines coming to us in section 93 in more clear ways than anywhere else in scripture in my opinion.
So we see in John that he describes Jesus as the Word and this is a powerful way to describe God. Now there's many ways to describe God. In Greek the word is logos and it shows up all sorts of interesting words in our language and anciently the word logos meant word, it also meant reason or intellect or understanding, even science and learning. For example you might find a word like this today, biology, where at the end of the word bios means life, biology literally means the study of life and all of that is based on the words that we deem the truth and light and knowledge. It's that God is the Word. He is the totality of all things. He is the alpha and omega, he is the author and finisher of our faith and so he invites all of us to delve into his word so that we can know the word. I find it significant that D. & C. 93, it wasn't a revealed painting even though I love art. What God revealed here to define more fully who he is for us was done through words and I think we can glory and find joy in the fact that God delivers his word to us both in written form and in the enfleshed reality of his Son, Jesus Christ.
That's beautiful. If you look at the English form of this concept of a word, how he would use words, what format do they – or what function do they fulfill for us, understanding that the Greek word logos has – if you look this up in a Greek lexicon, it has dozens and dozens of possible meanings and word is just one of many interpretations and meanings of the word logos. Look at the way it sits in John chapter 1 verse 1 in the King James Version and understand that Joseph Smith, there's a JST footnote there that takes you back to the appendix that gives you a slightly different view of verse 1 through 34, the entire chapter, he's changed some significant things throughout here, but the way it sits in the King James Version, notice – let's look at the way people communicate. Here you have person A and you have person B. Person A wants to communicate something to person B. They have either a thought or some sort of emotion or feeling that they want to communicate. What do they do? Step 1 they encode that thought or that feeling into some code, some way to be able to transmit it, then they speak it or write it or draw it or portray it in some way and often they use words to communicate what's in their head or in their heart with the other person. Those words or those pictures or those ideas come to this other person who then sees or hears and then decodes what they've seen or heard and if communication has been effective, then what was here ends up over here. What is the go-between? What is the main form of communication? It's words. Hmm. What if this is Heavenly Father and this is you? How does God communicate his lofty ideals and his feelings for us, how does he – how does he communicate with us traditionally? It's through his Son, the logos, the word of God who was with the Father in the beginning. He sent his Son to be this – you want to know what God wants? Just look at Jesus. Follow Jesus Christ and you'll know what God the Father was trying to communicate to us all along at any phase, the way. I am the way he tells us, the truth and the light and no man cometh unto the Father but by me. There's not a back door through this process.
So with this foundation of saying okay, Jesus is the pattern, the Lord Jesus Christ is my – is my exemplar, he marked the path and he is the only source of life and light for me moving forward. With that foundation from John chapter 1, now let's jump into Doctrine and Covenants 93. Look at verse 2. This should sound familiar. So to finish off verse 1, they "shall see my face and know that I am," and there's something else they're going to know, they'll know that, "I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." The light of Christ permeates all space we learn from section 88 and now you get the clarification even further that it, "lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Everybody gets a portion of the light of Christ and you'll also know that "I am in the Father and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one." You get this beautiful, beautiful unity of the Godhead that is described in John the gospel and throughout the New Testament and the Book of Mormon and now you get him describing it here as well. He says that, "I am in the Father, and the Father in me," and I and the Father are one.
To make better sense of this, if you go to John's gospel, chapter 14, look at verse 20, "At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father and ye in me and I in you." Did you notice what just happened? Jesus isn't just declaring to us in section 93 the unity of the Godhead. This oneness was never intended to be exclusive to Father and Son and Holy Ghost alone in isolation. He has been taught by the Father what exactly it means to be perfectly one and he doesn't stop there. He then turns to us and says I want to be one with you, and you can become one with me and he takes it one step further if you keep going through the gospel of John which, by the way, we need to take a little time out here.
John is kind of unique. You'll notice there is no other New Testament apostle that is mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon other than John. John is known to Nephi way back in the beginning when Nephi has a panoptic vision, the vision of all things, he's told you can write up to this certain point and then stop writing because now John my apostle is appointed to write the rest of this in Revelation. Those Book of Mormon prophets, many of them seem to know John. Joseph Smith is very tuned into the gospel of John. He just keeps coming up over and over and over again. So when we spend time going through the gospel of John doing this cross-referencing, it's not because there's a random connection. It seems that John has a pretty – pretty significant place in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in helping the Lord do his work in this in these, the latter days and so he just keeps coming up.
Now, off of our tangent, back to look at John 17, the intercessory prayer, let's take this oneness, this in and unity one step further. In Jesus' intercessory prayer, keep in mind he's standing in the Kidron Valley, here's the Kidron Brook right there and on the other side is the Garden that we call Gethsemane. Jesus is about to step over that brook and begin his infinite atoning suffering and he's offering this intercessory prayer and right there at the very end of the prayer, we're just a few verses from his amen, notice what he says in verse 20 and 21. "Neither pray I for these alone." That would be the eleven apostles that are with him that night, "but for them also that shall believe on me through their word." I think he's praying for you, he's praying for me right there because I believe on him through the words of these prophets and apostles.
Look at verse 21 now, "that they all may be one as thou Father art in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Are you noticing the beautiful, inclusiveness that Jesus is offering to us? He's opening his arms wide to say come, I want you to be one with me. I want you in me and I want to be in you just like I'm in the Father and the Father is in me and then I will help you to become one with us. That is the best description of heaven. It's unity, it's oneness, it's Zion, and that is everything Satan is fighting against. Satan wants divisiveness; he wants division. He wants class distinction. He wants warfare and contention. He does not like unity and yet in other places in the scriptures Jesus makes it very clear, if you're not one, you're not mine. Okay?
Now look at verse 4, "The Father because he gave me of his fullness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men." Here Jesus seems to be shifting into this discussion of how he is both Father and Son. We've talked before in the Book of Mormon year about how Jesus the Son of God becomes the everlasting Father as Isaiah uses that phrase to describe him. He becomes the Father of our spiritual rebirth, the Father of our resurrected body. He engenders life in our eternal life, the Father of our eternal life. It all comes through his infinite atonement that pays the price to redeem us from death and hell. So he's giving us this description of how he's both the Father because he gave me of his fullness, Jesus represents the Father but he's also the Son because he made flesh his tabernacle.
Look at verse 5, "I was in the world and I received of my Father, and the works of him were plainly manifest. And John saw and bore record of the fullness of my glory and the fullness of John's record is hereafter to be revealed." It's interesting back in section 27, Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim was shown a parchment with some writings of the apostle John that we don't have in the Bible and there in section 27 he translated that and here we're told we're going to get a fullness of John's record. Interestingly, earlier prophets and apostles in church history read section 93 and they believed that we were talking about the record of John the Baptist because many of the things that are now going to unfold here in section 93 are things that are included in John chapter 1 but it makes it look an awful lot like John the apostle, John the Beloved, John the Revelator is giving us the story of initially John chapter 1, of John the Baptist. Now whichever John and John's record he's talking about here, is far less important to me than knowing what that record contains and the truths that are there to help you and me move forward in greater faith following Jesus.
Look at what we get here, verse 7, "He bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was." In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Fascinating. If you look in the Greek text for John 1 verse 1, there's a definite article that's added so it would read in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with the God. The word that we're talking about, this logos was with the God which implies this exclusive nature of – there is one ultimate God and the Word happened to be with him and the Word was God and there's no definite article with that one in the Greek text. So Jesus was a God who stood next to the God in the beginning.
Notice verse 8, "Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation." Are you seeing the connection between words and messenger? What is the message God is sending? Far better than any words he could have ever used was let me communicate with you; here's my Son, just behold him, look at him, listen to him, watch him, do the things you've seen him do, that's my message to the whole world. That is our message as missionaries, as parents, as leaders in the Church is to point people to Christ, it's not to bring them to us, it's not to listen to our fancy words or drawings. All of those are a means to an end of trying to get people to recognize Christ, the Word where the real power lies. He is the light. He is the light source; it's not us. It's nobody – nobody on this planet is the light source, not even the prophet. Everybody is a reflector of the light and he gives unto us to be the light but it's – the light comes from him.
Look at verse 9, "The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men." It all comes back to him. Verse 10, "The worlds," notice there's an s on the end of the word world. "The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him." That's a pretty good description of a Father, a Father of creation, how the Son now becomes more like the Father in this powerful creation – in these powerful creation acts.
Look at verse11, "I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us." Now are you noticing the power of the state of being? Jesus Christ in the beginning before he was born was a God. John 1 and 2 makes that very clear. But he came down and dwelt among us. He became a man. He was born into a physical body like you and I were born into.
Notice verse 12, "I, John, saw that he received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace." There's this interesting notion that some of the early Christian believers had that Jesus was fully divine, that he didn't really experience mortality the way you and I experience mortality – human flesh and weakness the way you and I have to deal with it, and so it's this idea of nope, he was Godly from the beginning. We even see signs of that in little ways like one of my favorite Christmas hymns, Away in a Manger, even kind of hints at that idea, the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes, almost as if to say – and I get it, I understand the hymn isn't trying to say oh he never, ever cried, it just implies this idea of Jesus was different as a baby; he didn't cry, he was perfect as if a little baby crying is a bad thing.
I hope you're comfortable with the fact that when Jesus was born into that little tabernacle of clay being held in Mary's arms as she croons him softly to sleep, as she feeds him, as she has to take care of changing diaper and protecting him, that that little baby doesn't know he's the Son of God, that that little baby doesn't know that he created this world and worlds without number out there, that that little baby doesn't know that he's going to grow up to wear the ultimate crown of exaltation because first he would wear a crown of thorns and carry a cross and suffer for us. That little baby didn't know any more than you knew when you were that age. This is unique. Section 93 is unique in teaching the dual nature of Christ, his identity, that from God the Father he inherits all of these Godly attributes and from Mary, his mother, he inherits all of the humanity that you and I know oh so well – that he has to grow.
Notice verse 15 – because verse 14 told us he received not of the fullness at the first – this is what we call the condescension where he sheds all of that power, all of that knowledge, all of that ability comes through a veil of the same veil you and I come through and he begins the same way you and I begin, as a little, innocent, helpless baby – this infant. Look at verse 15, "I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaving saying: This is my beloved Son." So now we go from his birth to age 30 at that baptism when the Holy Ghost descends upon him and we hear this glorious manifestation from heaven, "This is my beloved Son." By the way, there is nobody, and I mean nobody who can bear a more powerful testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, than God himself. So it's there at the baptism at around age 30 with John that we are told this is my Beloved Son, make no mistake about it.
Look at verse 16, "I, John, bear record that he received a fullness of the glory of the Father; and he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him." So from birth to age 30 Jesus had to do some growing and progressing over time and section 93 describes that.
Look at verse 19. This is – this is, in my mind, the thesis statement for the entire Doctrine and Covenants. I believe, and this is just little old Tyler's opinion here, but I believe that verse 19 is the nutshell thesis statement for everything that we're reading this whole year in the Doctrine and Covenants. "I give unto you these sayings," now I get it, we're talking about section 93 here, but for me I'm extending it to the entire Doctrine and Covenants. "I give unto you these sayings," why? So that, "you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fullness." Did you see it? Here's Jesus saying I get it. I went from that babe in my mother's arms to that baptism with John receiving of a fullness at that time, according to John's record. I grew and I'm now revealing all of these things to you so that you can walk the path that I walked, so you can know how to receive of the fullness of God that I'm promising you.
Verse 20, "For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fullness, and be glorified in me." Did you notice that qualifier? We're never glorified outside of Christ. We're never glorified on our own merits alone. That's impossible. It's glorification in Christ, "as I am in the Father; therefore I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace." Now let's talk about those words grace for grace for a moment. If you go back, that's not the first time you've seen that. Look across the page again back over to verse 12, "I, John, saw that he received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace." The word for is interesting here because Jesus, we're told, received grace for grace. It's almost as if Jesus is giving grace outward, and as he does that, what does he receive in return? He receives grace for any grace that he extends or gives. Huh.
Look at verse 13 now, "and he received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness." Are you noticing? Remember this growth and progression? He grows from level of grace to level of grace and how does he do it? It's by extending grace. It's by giving grace. It's a very active, faith-filled progression here, it's not a passive wait for grace to be given to me kind of a progression.
Brothers and sisters, I know there are a lot of people out there who want to argue and fight and debate over grace and works and salvation. I love it when you come to a section like 93 where it takes all of that argument and fighting and divisiveness and just sets that aside and doesn't even pay any attention to it and just says look, let me just tell you how it is, how Jesus grew and progressed because it's the same way that you're going to grow and progress in life. It's grace to grace that you grow and how do you do it? It's by extending grace. It's in how you live your life and how you treat others and how you treat yourself and how you treat God. It's these extensions of grace that cause this progression to accelerate. Notice what happens when you and I follow this example of Jesus growing from grace to grace as we – to use his words – we receive grace for grace. The principle to me is if you feel like you're lacking in grace, try pleading with God to give you greater knowledge, greater intelligence to then turn outward and extend more grace, and watch what happens to the amount of grace that comes into your life. As it flows through us from Christ, some of it's going to stick, some of it's going to become a permanent part of you; as we also walk the same path we can't help but become more like him in the process.
Look at verse 23. Let's bring you into the story. "Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth." Did you catch that? Ye were also in the beginning with the Father. Back to John 1:1, back to Genesis 1:1, in the beginning and he's telling you here, you were also in the beginning. You were with the Father as well. Look at verse 24, "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, (and) as they were, and as they are to come." Oh my heavens, that verse right there is as clear – it's powerful. Truth is this knowledge of things as they are, as they were and as they are to come. I don't know of any better definition of truth anywhere. The Book of Mormon Jacob chapter 4 verse 13, he'll give a little addition to that where truth is a knowledge of things as they really are, is another beautiful definition of truth, but I'd say that this one here is probably the most all-encompassing description of this word truth and Jesus in the New Testament informs us that if we know the truth, that truth will set us free. That makes us free. Free! Freedom, liberty, agency. Wait a minute. The more truth I know, the more I study things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come, the more freedom I have, the more agency I have, the more liberty I have to grow and develop and to extend more grace than I could before? Hmm, it sounds like our heavenly parents really do want us to become more like them, filled with power and knowledge and ability and it all keeps coming back to this truth thing, so as you spend time either as an individual or as a couple or as a family or as a class or as a ward or as a stake, any effort you spend to study, whether it be through a Come Follow Me curriculum, whether it be through a simple scripture study that lasts for a minute or for an hour, it doesn't matter. Anything you and I do to learn more truth, things as they really are, things as they were, they are and they are to come, then we are empowered to now act based on that truth. What's the opposite of truth? Deception, misdirection or downright lies that will not lead me to a grace-filled and grace-flowing life. It will lead me to a turned inward, dark life.
Now watch. Verse 25, "Whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning." Hmm, that means that Satan told some lies in the beginning. What was his – what were – what was his message, the first message that we have from Satan in scripture is, I will save them all. I will lose none of them. You and I were with him in the beginning when we heard that statement and I have to believe that there was something in our spirit when we heard that that said no, that is a lie, it is not possible for him to save everyone and lose nobody because for that to happen, he would have to destroy our agency and the Pearl of Great Price makes it very clear that Satan sought to destroy the agency of man, the freedom, our liberty. There is no salvation in you being forced or not having a choice or me being kept ignorant. I need all of those things; I need eternal law. I need freedom to choose in order for that agency to really have full effect for me to grow grace to grace on this process of eternal progression.
Look at verse 26 the opposite of verse 25. "The Spirit of truth is of God, I am the Spirit of truth," keep in mind, Jesus is speaking here, "and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fullness of truth, yea, even of all truth." What about you and me? No man receiveth a fullness unless he keepeth his commandments.
Oh brothers and sisters, if you look at this idea of grace for grace and grace to grace, instead of seeing God's commandments as this big, long list of to dos in order to earn or merit or deserve heaven, instead of looking at it that way, what if we looked at his commandments as an extension of God's grace, that he loves us so much he gives us the handbook of how to walk that covenant path. This covenant connection that he gives you has these terms of the agreement that Taylor has talked about multiple times in previous episodes. It all comes – it all comes full circle here but the commandments are simply an extension of God's grace, they're a sign of his love because if he didn't love you, if he didn't care about you, I can guarantee he wouldn't give you any commandments. He would say do whatever you want. But unfortunately, our agency would be greatly limited and we wouldn't have the capacity to grow to become like him. I love the way C. S. Lewis puts it, the concept that he teaches on one occasion was every time God gives us a commandment or reveals a new commandment to us, he's not simply trying to fill our time. What he's doing is he's revealing yet another aspect of his own character to us. That's what the commandments are. It's an extension of God's grace.
Now what do we do? What is our part? Verse 27, "No man receiveth a fullness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things." The grace – we receive grace and the way that we extend grace is by listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd, hearkening to those commandments and saying ooh, that's what I'm expected to do? I'm going to need some help with that, please help me and please forgive me when I have a hard time getting It right because I'm not perfect at this and I need thy grace not just to receive and try to keep it, but to be forgiven when I don't keep the commandments and that is our - that is our glorious message to the world is that there is hope in Christ. If we have faith in him and listen to him, hearken to his voice and keep his commandments, we are not trying to save ourselves through those works. We're simply trying to love the Lord and come unto Christ because we recognize that he is the only one who has the power and capacity to actually save us. There is no salvation anywhere else, the salvation is in him.
Look at verse 29. "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be." Did you notice that? There's this notion about the creation of the world that it was created ex nihilo, that God kind of like a magician pulled out a magic wand and said, let there be an earth and boom, out of nothing there all of a sudden appeared an earth. This section talks about matter the same as it talks about you and me as spirit children of God, that intelligence and life is not created out of nothing; it's organized. Look at verse 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." Can you see how the Lord is teaching his lofty doctrines that take some of our age-old philosophical questions and at least gives us a foundation starting point to be able to talk about them in very, very high ways, things like if God is all powerful and all knowing, why is there so much abuse? Why is there so much evil in the world? Why do so many people do so many bad things? Why doesn't he stop it? I think your simplest answer is in verse 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." God doesn't want you to be a robot or a puppet on the end of strings. He doesn't want to force everybody to love him and keep his commandments and accept his grace and respond appropriately to all of the light and truth that he tries to give us. There is no existence in that. The true power of this life is the fact that Jesus performed the infinite atonement to make up for all of the wrongs and all of the missteps and all of the poor choices people would make using their agency, but now giving you and me freedom to exist, to live.
Verse 31, "Here is the agency of man," oh, and by the way, with that agency comes accountability, and "here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light." Have you noticed how uncomfortable it can be at times to open your eyes to the light when you've been in a dark place? It can hurt and sometimes human beings prefer to walk in the dark rather than to walk in the light and they lose their agency to keep that cloak of darkness rather than walking in the light.
On verse 32, "Every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation." There are people who say, I don't believe in God, but it's the same argument in this context of somebody saying, oh, I don't believe in the sun, I don't believe in the sun. Whether you believe in the sun or not, it doesn't change the fact that the sun is in the heavens and that the sun is shining light onto the world. I don't have to live my life according to the truth that that light reveals for me, that's my choice. But if I want more power, if I want more freedom, if I want more agency, the grand irony is I need to simply live more according to the light that has been given to me from heaven called the commandments.
Look at verse 35. "The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple." It's a pretty powerful concept tied back into something that Paul taught in the New Testament when he asks the question what – know ye not that ye are the temple of our God? If you look at all the stories involving Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem and you look at that temple as a physical symbol for what God is trying to do with me and with you, those stories take on a little more meaning. The cleansing of the temple, think about that as the beautiful repentance process where we have to let Jesus in for him to then be able to get rid of things out of our life that are defiling us, that are preventing us from growing from grace to grace and progressing along the way and then letting things into our temple or bringing things into our life that need to be a part of it. It's beautiful symbolism tied here.
Look at verse 36. "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." My dear wife will often say to the children, making bad decisions makes you lose intelligence. It's going to make you less capable of understanding things the way you need to understand them. It's tied in here. The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth. If you want more truth, if you want more life and light and intelligence, then you cleave unto that which you've already received from him, the light that you already have and my favorite – my favorite use of this particular analogy of growing from grace to grace through the process of time is the fact that you and I don't need to be discouraged if we're there because we're not here. All God wants you to do is grow from grace to grace, that's the next step. That's all. That's it. We don't need to be overwhelmed, we don't need to be a person here looking down on others, or looking up thinking I'm not that – it doesn't matter where you are on the scale, all God wants you to do is to cleave unto that light and intelligence and truth that God has given you and as you do so, your capacity grows, as your capacity grows, your ability to understand higher concepts and repent at deeper levels becomes a possibility. You become more and more and more like Jesus and as you become more like Jesus you become more like God the Father and you become more one with them and you get more of their glory.
Verse 37, "Light and truth forsake that evil one." Now, let's go back to the very beginning of your life, birth. Verse 38, "Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God." You'll notice we're born into heaven as spirit children of our heavenly parents and we are innocent, and then we grow. And some would say well wait, so does that mean we could sin up in heaven? Well apparently so because a third of the hosts of heaven sinned so terribly that they lost their first estate and were cast out of heaven, and it's probably not the case that only a third of them sinned ultimately and the rest were perfect, with zero problems because it seems that up in heaven we had agency in that sphere, we were born innocent and then we experience some things and we look forward to Christ's atonement for our redemption and then we come to this earth; we're born into mortality into this physical body, and notice he says in their infant state we became again innocent before God. These little babies, they're innocent before God.
Sister Joy D. Jones in the April 2021 General Conference, she gave this amazing talk about Primary children and about how children were never of secondary importance to God, they are always of primary importance, that's why we love them in Primary. But then she talked about this beautiful notion that God grants these children this little phase of life where Satan has no power to influence them for those years where they're not accountable, where they can be taught and trained and given the seeds of true discipleship and they're safe from him and from his temptations. Then look at verse 39, "And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers." Did you catch that? Once we become accountable, Satan enters the picture and he is encouraging us at every level, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually, on every level Satan is trying to get us to disobey. Why?
Could any of you go to the local store and – and go and buy a little device that you put batteries in and when you click the button and then you point it at somebody, it shines darkness. Can I use the word shine with darkness in the same sense? You understand what I'm saying. How many of you would go and buy such a prank gag toy? A flashdark. Something where you could shine darkness where people all of a sudden couldn't see whatever it is that you are pointing at, it takes it away. There is no such thing as a flashdark. It's impossible because darkness doesn't exist independent of anything else. Darkness is simply the absence of light. We understand that Satan doesn't have such a tool to shine darkness on your soul. He can't take away your testimony, he can't take away your love, he can't take away grace, he can't take away light and truth from you. All he can do is entice you and tempt you and lie to you in ways to try to get you to disobey God, to embrace disobedience and to turn away from the light that emanates from God and permeates all space. He tries to get us to turn to disobedience because that will decrease the amount of light that we have and when we have less light, when we perceive that which is true, or a knowledge of things as they are, as they were and as they are to come, our vision gets dimmer and dimmer and dimmer and dimmer. Just because we're on a path of progression doesn't mean that there's only one way you can go. You have agency and at no time is that agency taken away from you so Satan is appealing to you to use that agency to distrust God, to not have faith in him and to disobey his word. Everything that we read back in verse 1, Satan has a counterfeit, an opposite of every single thing in that list that God wants us to do.
So here he tells you in verse 40, "I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth." And now the rebuke. It comes first to Frederick G. Williams, then to Sidney Rigdon then to Joseph Smith, then to Newel K. Whitney and Taylor talked about this in the beginning. It's all about a God, a Father who knows how to raise children perfectly and he's saying, you four leaders of the Church, our first presidency and our bishop in Kirtland who are here listening to this revelation, let me teach you how to be a better father. Let me teach you how to bring up your children in light and in truth and if you wonder how to do that, if you want to be a better parent, I think it would be worth all of our time to spend significant effort trying to understand what's written here in ways that you've never seen before by reading section 93 over and over again, both individually and collectively. There are principles here that bring us back to President Boyd K. Packer's statement, true doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior. If you're struggling with a child or with a family member or with a ward member because they're making poor decisions, perhaps rather than spending a lot of time focusing on behaviors that would fix those poor decisions, we would recommend that you spend more time focusing on what are the doctrines that if they understood them really well would have the greatest impact to motivate them to turn towards the light to seek more truth for themselves to activate more of their agency and to move forward in greater faith.
Now, by the way, look back at verse 39, there was a second thing that can cause us to take away light and truth, that can cause us to be engulfed in more darkness. It's not just the devil tempting us to be disobedient, there was a second thing in there. It can also be because of the tradition of their fathers. Hmm, I can't tell you how many people I met on my mission or in my life who would say things like, you know what, my father was this, my grandfather was this, and I'm going to be this, whatever this was and it's just the tradition of the fathers or of the ancestors that make it so that I'm not going to seek – I don't want to rock the boat, I don't want to change anything. It's fascinating to me how many people will claim that they won't progress on the covenant path because they don't want to offend their father or their mother. There's a grand irony here, they're so worried about what their father might think that they're totally closing their mind off and disregarding what their everlasting Father, their Father who originally gave them life as well as Jesus Christ who becomes their adoptive Father through making these covenants with him through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost to move forward in faith on that covenant path. Ironically, if people will focus more on honoring this Father and Mother, in the end they will bring great honor to mom and dad, to this other level of father, the lower case father, not the upper case Father.
So to finish, look at the words in verse 51. "Now, I say unto you, my friends," we talked about this before and we'll talk about it again, but it never ceases to amaze me that the God of the universe, the God who created worlds without number and holds them in his hand who has all knowledge, all power, all capacities, that he didn't just condescend by coming down to become a mortal baby like the rest of us came down in these tabernacles of clay, but he even condescends in little phrases like this. "I say unto you, my friends," he, the God of the universe is calling Joseph and Sidney and Frederick and Newel his friends, and by extension, we liken all scriptures unto us – he's calling you his friends. He's begging us to "proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the gospel of salvation, as I shall give him utterance; and by your prayer of faith with one consent I will uphold him."
So in closing, as you look at your own life, at your own situation wherever you may be, the message today from section 93 is simple. The more you will seek truth, study it out in your mind, study it out in your heart, the more you seek knowledge, things as they really are and as they were and as they are to come, the more power you will have to act. You will be able to use your agency and if you use that agency pleading with God to help you to be more obedient to the commandments that he's already given, to extend more grace outward, if you can try a little harder to be a little kinder, be a little more gentle with your loved ones and with your enemies, be a little more forgiving, a little less prone to be offended at a word or at an annoyance, if you can just keep striving to be turned outward in more grace, more of that grace will flow through you and we finish where we began, in the very first verse, it would make sense to come full circle with this particular section. "Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am."
I know that God lives. He's our Father. I know that Jesus is the Christ, his Only Begotten Son who becomes our adoptive Father who will become the Father of our rebirth and our resurrection and the Father of our eternal life and I love him with all my heart and I want to do everything I can to be more like him and to reflect his light and his truth, his love, and ultimately, his grace, and I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Know that you're loved.
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