By Chris Layton
January 3, 2020
“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” (History of the church 3:385)
This was confusing at first because the scriptures are full of examples of the prophets testifying against the congregations of the wicked while they would accuse the prophets of being of the devil because they were stirring up contention.
We can turn to the scriptures for direction or examples from the prophets on how we must act when we begin to see backsliding. If our lives are not in keeping with God’s commandments then we must first repent. When is it appropriate to act as a voice of warning or is this best left to the Heavenly hosts?
God told the prophet Ezekiel that we are not to remain silent when we begin to see these things and when God prompts us to speak.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me” (Ezekiel 3:17)
Alma Chastises His Brethren
“And now my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye had ought to be beloved, and ye had ought to bring forth works which is mete for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people.
Now it came to pass that when I, Alma, had spoken these words, behold, the people were wroth with me, because I said unto them that they were a hardhearted and a stiffnecked people; and also because I had said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people, they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison; but it came to pass that the Lord did not suffer them that they should take me at that time and cast me into prison. And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written; nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.
(Alma 9: 30-34)
Is testifying of sin left only to men who have never sinned?
Alma was a sent messenger from God in the flesh to minister to the people of the church. He knew he had sinned in the past and fallen short of the Glory of God. He made a lot of mistakes in his youth and had not been particularly righteous yet God chose to take Alma and use him for His purposes on the basis that Alma repented of his sins. The words that he taught were meant not to condemn, but to bless and teach God’s people. While he opened up the scriptures to them it was the Holy Ghost who would convict their souls of sin, not Alma. This was a gift from God to them, but because it came from one among them with a checkered past rather than a divine heavenly being in the fullness of power and glory of God, they would not receive it.
During the millennium, will people sit and wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to minister to them personally while refusing his messengers? God has many blessings in store for us and they come in the form of gifts. These are gifts of wisdom, which are endowments.
When we sin, we distance ourselves from God. When we go too far in our sin we’ve divorced ourselves from Him. No unclean thing can come into His presence so He sends messengers who are prophets, mortal men which He raises up to testify of Him.
“The endowment you are so anxious about, you cannot comprehend now, nor could Gabriel explain it to the understanding of your dark minds; but strive to be prepared in your hearts, be faithful in all things, that when we (the body of Christ) shall meet, we must be clean every whit. Let us be faithful and silent, brethren, and if God gives you a manifestation (a revealing or an uncovering), keep it to yourselves; be watchful and prayerful, and you shall have a prelude of those joys that God will pour out on that day (such as when Joseph of Egypt was revealed to his brethren) Do not watch for iniquity in each other, if you do you will not get an endowment.” (TPJS)
Why would watching for iniquity in each other hinder us from an endowment? Because each member of the body of Christ comes with a gift, which is also God’s message, the purpose of which is to benefit the whole. To watch for sin is to look for sin so that the message of God can be ignored.
“All these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God” (D&C 46:26)
Angels versus Spirits
How do we know if a messenger is sent from God? Joseph gave us the keys (endowments) of knowledge in the 129th section of the Doctrine and covenants which tells us:
“There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones”
The term “Resurrection” according to Strong’s concordance (G386) defines it as being “raised to life again” Along with those found in Heaven, are there also persons on this earth who have been “raised to life again” having “bodies of flesh and bones?”
All men living on this earth have been raised to life again and again many times over. In fact all creatures living on this earth have been raised to life innumerable times. This is eternal lives being born again or more commonly known as rebirth, reprobation, or reincarnation.
Continuing on in D&C 129 we learn that spirits of just men made perfect who also live in heaven are not resurrected having not bodies of flesh and bones as we have and so we learn the three grand keys of whether any administration is from God:
“When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you (as you have been taught in the house of the Lord)
If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear.” (as we see in Joseph’s first vision with the personages standing in midair)
Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.
“If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands, he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.” (D&C 129:4-8)
An endowment is an empowerment of knowledge from God to man through His ministering servants or angels. Angels by definition are “messengers” and they can be mortal or they can be immortal.
Jesus made John the beloved a ministering angel to the heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth so going from probation to probation he along with his brethren Peter and James essentially go from “house to house” on this earth. Jesus made Peter to be a minister to John as well as his brother James with all three holding the power and keys of the ministry until the Lord Jesus Christ comes. (D&C 7:6-8)
The purpose of the ministering angel is to minister his gift to his brethren which comes from God.
Why won’t you receive an endowment then if you look for iniquity in your brother? Because he has a gift from God for you. In this way we truly learn how to love one another and become humble and submissive before the Lord seeking only to do His will.
Will this always be a pleasure to receive?
Perhaps what your brother has for you is nothing more than a mirror. Perhaps you have one for him as well. The scriptures say that we must be aware that we entertain angels unawares at times. It may very well be that the angel you need that God in his ultimate wisdom sends to you is your brother even though you may seem be at odds with one another.
Messengers Have Mercy
Jesus said we must carry our cross as He did. We are commanded to love our enemies and bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you praying for them that spitefully use you and persecute you. That is carrying your cross. It’s why Jesus said if you only love those who love you, you have no reward. It’s those who hate and despise you, by showing them the true love of God, they becoming true believers in Jesus Christ in time by your good example are the ones who become your reward.
In God’s game of chess, there is always 2 players who essentially are friends but at the same time they’re also opponents. God said there must be opposition in all things. How else can God get a people to move if not by the opposition which He sends? How else could God cause the wicked Nephites to repent but to send the Lamanites, their brethren in upon them to destroy them? This is the means where God can instruct his children, teaching them the blessings of obedience and the consequences of rebellion.
Why does a man apostatize? Because he refuses to receive the gifts that God sends to him even by such seemingly insignificant characters who serve as ministering angels in the flesh (messengers).
God Can Endow His Children with Knowledge Outside of the Temple
Nephi ministered to his brethren teaching them from the scriptures but they were hard in their hearts and would not receive the gift. It could be said that even the Lamanites ministered to the Nephites by virtue of administering death which so often stirred them up unto repentance to remember their God. They could not do anything to them but they did do a lot for them because opposition happens for you, not in spite of you in God’s eyes. It’s all a matter of perspective. Does God mind doing whatever it takes to get His children to repent? Not one bit.
When a man ceases from receiving the gifts or in other words endowments God sends to him because he thinks he knows better or has received enough, or that he is righteous as Joseph said, he begins to fight against God and ultimately will rebel against Him if he doesn’t repent. That is the true meaning of apostasy which is to cease from believing in God and cease from receiving His gifts which He has for us. It is a tragic mistake for men to arrive at the conclusion that they have “arrived” and have no more need to be taught.
This is why men cannot get an endowment when all they do is look for iniquity in their brethren (because they do not look to find the message God is trying to send through His servants)
The word of God to the wicked can seem to be persecution. Laman and Lemuel complained to their younger brother Nephi that he spoke hard words against them, but it isn’t persecution, it’s prosecution. God can prosecute a war if necessary to lead men to conviction. It is by the Holy Ghost that men are convicted of sin in their souls leading them to repentance. Only God can ultimately condemn but He can and often does send his servants our brethren to both encourage us and also to chastise us in the hope that men will repent and turn back to God. These are the angels whom we so often entertain unawares.