Monday, August 8, 2016

Waiting on the Lord is Required for the Fullness of the Priesthood (Scripture Study Helaman 10:4-10)

The Book of Mormon contains the story of Nephi, one of several men in the scriptures who receive a special blessing from God.
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
 5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
 6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
 7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
 8 And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.
 9 And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.
 10 And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass.
(Helaman 10)
The blessing Nephi received was the promise from God that he received the power to do all things according to God's will. This is referred to by several phrases, including the fullness of the priesthood or the receipt of the sealing power. Others in the scriptures received the same, such as Elijah, but this passage provides a more detailed description of why Nephi received it than any other of which I am aware.

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and it should be attentively studied for anyone who desires the capacity to do God's work on this earth without the inhibitions of mortality.

God provides an explanation of why Nephi received this blessing. First, he unhesitatingly and consistently delivered every word to the people that God delivered to him. I have met many who have divulged to me that they are very reluctant to share the knowledge that God has given them with others. What holds them back? They have enumerated many reasons: lack of self-confidence, fear of persecution, fear of loss of friends, fear of loss of job, etc. These reasons are not special. A search of the scriptures will yield examples of people who shared each of these fears. For example, Enoch and Moses both questioned why they should be the ones to preach the word they were given (though they both handled it very differently--reread the accounts and note that Enoch's response merited a special blessing of seership, while Moses' resulted in God's anger and a curse of sorts with the assignment of Aaron as his spokesman). These reasons do not excuse any of us from doing what we are meant to do. I am not sure God ever reveals anything to anyone for just their own use. In my experience, the best revelations I ever received were primarily given because God knew I would be willing to share them with others who needed them. A brief caution: While most people err on the side of not sharing, it is possible to share too much. Alma 12 contains an admonition not to share information with others that they have not merited through heed and diligence to what they have already received. Of course, when God tells you something and tells you to share it with others, Alma 12 does not apply.

Those who do not faithfully discharge our duty to share the word he gives with others will never receive the fullness of the priesthood.

How did God know that Nephi would never ask something contrary to his will? There are only two ways for a man not to ask something contrary to God's will. The first way is if the man knows everything that God knows, and therefore will never make a decision differently than God would. I do not believe that anyone on this planet knows what God knows. I do not believe that is possible in our imperfect fleshy state. The second way is if the man refuses to act in God's name without explicit revelation from God instructing him in what to do. If you believe that a man cannot know everything that God knows, you must conclude that the reason Nephi would never ask anything contrary to God's will is that he would never act in God's name without explicit revelation from God instructing him in what to do.

The second thing God tells Nephi is that Nephi has not sought his own wellbeing, but only God's will. This description is far more profound than its small textual footprint suggests. Do you know what it means to seek only God's will and not your own wellbeing? If you are ever searching for your next area of repentance, enumerate what this means in every facet of your life. In my case, I would ask what this means as a father, as a husband, as a son, as an employee, as a preacher, in my prayers, in my service, as a farmer, in fitness, etc. This, folks, is consecration. The fact that God tells Nephi he has achieved this status is no small thing. It is incredible.

Nephi is also told that he keeps the commandments. God himself tells Nephi that he has been true and faithful in all things.

Now, interestingly, Nephi is not really any different for having done all these things. Despite the fact that he has built a highway of character, there aren't really cars of power driving on it. God says that because of all of this he will MAKE him mighty. He isn't mighty at this point. How will he do so? The Lord says he will be able to make him mighty because ("for") he will "not ask that which is contrary to my will." In other words, he will become mighty in faith and works because God will be able to instruct him knowing that he will only do what God tells him to do.

Some have this notion that someone with the fullness of the priesthood walks around doing wall to wall miracles; that they are endowed with some special power and they go around using it everywhere. Is there anything in the scriptures that supports this view?

What about Elijah? If you make a list of all the times Elijah exercised the power of God, you would have an impressive list. And yet, how long did Elijah live? Averaged over his entire ministry, how many miracles did Elijah exercise per year? All the sudden, the illusion of someone walking around like a wizard doing tricks evaporates. Even for men with the fullness of the priesthood, miracles are not a constant event.

But what about Jesus? Even though nearly everything about Jesus' life is a story about a miracle he did, he had a three year long mission. You still get gaps, and lots of them.

The truth is, and this is important, God does not want to heal everyone who is sick. He doesn't want to raise everyone from the dead. He doesn't want to make all the blind see. He doesn't want to rescue all men from all suffering. Suffering and death are intentional parts of the mortal experience. They are necessary tools for achieving his purpose, which purpose is to provide a way for men to achieve eternal life.

If the fullness of the priesthood meant that the man would be empowered to do whatever he wanted to do, it would frustrate the purposes of God, both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly, people would be alleviated from suffering that was necessary to bring about their eternal progression. Inwardly, the man would find it impossibly difficult to maintain obedience to God. Though the gospel of blessings is false doctrine, it is true that our desire to encounter God is a tremendous motivator for repentance. If we suddenly had every spiritual desire fulfilled, would we be able to maintain a broken heart and contrite spirit? Jesus was certainly able to maintain a broken heart and contrite spirit despite the unbridled ability to exercise godly power. I am not so sure that we would be as successful.

Nephi said, "And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done." (1 Nephi 17:50) Perhaps we can learn a bit from this verse by considering what Nephi did not say. He did not say "I can do all things if I just believe that I can," or "I can do all things if I believe that God can do all things." The critical factor was God commanding him to do it. He understood this lesson because he had seen the power manifest when he did/said what God told him to do/say: "And it came to pass that I stretched forth my hand unto my brethren, and they did not wither before me; but the Lord did shake them, even according to the word which he had spoken." (1 Nephi 17:54) What would happen if you or I stretched forth our hand to another to shock them? Go ahead, try it. There was nothing special about Nephi that made his action effectual, except for the fact that God had told him to do it.

There is an incredible burden to obtain the word of God. Nephi taught, "For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do." (2 Nephi 32:5) and "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do." (2 Nephi 32:3) Shouldn't "all things" include the Lord's works which he wills us to do? Without the word, you can do nothing. "Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men." (D&C 11:21) "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground." (D&C 8:2-3) The Old Testament Balaam tried to explain to his petitioner that he could not simply speak arbitrary words and have the Lord fulfill them: "And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak." (Numbers 22:38) Isaiah, John, Ezekiel, Abinadi, Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi, and others were given words they should speak. We believe Jesus when he said that he is the gate to the true fold, and the only one who can open it. If I assume power in God which he has not given me, my action will not be efficacious and I am guilty of using the Lord's name in vain.

The Lord knew this principle. He taught it to us through his life. How often in the New Testament does he explain that he only has power to do what the Father told him (empowered him) to do? Christs' authority came only inasmuch as he was commanded to do what he did of the Father (John 14:24). Any exception to that rule came as a result of a blanket permission he was given from the Father (for example, power over his own death). He did not assume any power that was not given explicitly to him from God.

The word of God is a lot like diamonds. You can find a diamond every once in a while on the surface of the earth. It's just sitting there, waiting to be picked up. But there are a lot more diamonds buried in rare, hard to find and hard to mine underground deposits. If you are a diamond miner and you assume that the surface type are the only extant diamonds since it is the only way you've found diamonds, you are out a fortune of more numerous and higher quality stones.

"And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me." (D&C 59:4)

The Lord can direct a miracle to occur seemingly at random, and he does, but he also invites us over and over to obtain his word by knocking, asking, seeking. Of course, many supposed gemstone experts don't understand a thing about diamonds, and so they don't even bother looking at the ground, let alone discovering the underground geology.