Why Does Moroni Ask: “If These Things Are Not True”?

Moroni’s Promise – Ensign Apr. 1994 gene-r-cook-10

Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy explains:

The Book of Mormon offers a remarkable promise to those seeking knowledge of the truth. Over the years, I have heard members and missionaries offer a variety of explanations about its meaning. A close examination of the three key verses—Moroni 10:3–5 [Moro. 10:3–5]—will show us that their meaning is far more profound than many of us might have thought.

Verse 4 [Moro. 10:4] identifies yet another important principle: if we want an answer from God, we will move ourselves out of a neutral position and let our desire to believe that God can help us begin to work in us.

One way to understand verse 4 [Moro. 10:4] is to note that the scripture does not say we are to ask whether these things are true or not, but that we are to ask “if these things are not true.” What is the difference?

The Lord does not ask us to prove that the teachings we have read are true, or that they are not true. That is the kind of objective approach one might take in the academic, scientific world. However, that is not the best way we learn truth from the Lord.

The Lord offers us the opportunity to let him confirm truth already in our hearts. But in order to confirm religious truth, one must at least have the idea, or the thought, or the belief (however small) that he has found something true, and then pray to receive the Lord’s confirmation.

Verse 4 [Moro. 10:4], then, is the Lord’s invitation, through Moroni, to thus confirm truth. To ask “if these things are not true” implies a degree of acceptance that comes as a result of our pondering the teachings of the Book of Mormon that we have received. Notice again the importance of that very first step—remembering the mercy of God to us since the Creation—and then the next step, which is to similarly ponder and receive the teachings of the Book of Mormon.  Surely such pondering of these teachings will bring to mind their truth, their power, their goodness. Thus, it is now tantamount to praying, “Father, I believe that I have received truth. Please tell me if this is not so.” This kind of humble petition is motivated by our faith in Christ, by our faith that he will let us know whether our feelings are correct concerning the Book of Mormon or whether we have been deceived. Thus, our prayer, in essence, is a request for a confirmation of our own conclusions from our pondering. The Lord may not respond exactly how and when we expect, but still our obedience to these conditions qualifies us to receive an answer; this is the scope of the process described in these verses.

Moroni’s Promise

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Remission of Sins Comes By The Holy Ghost, Not By Baptism

The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Member Should Know

BY PRESIDENT BOYD K. PACKER

Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

From an address given on June 24, 2003, at a seminar for new mission presidents, Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah.

 

Joseph Smith said: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost.Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499).

To prepare people for baptism without teaching about the gift of the Holy Ghost is like a sacrament meeting where only the bread is blessed and passed. They would receive but half.

When parents are teaching their children and when missionaries are teaching investigators, preparing them for baptism by water, they must also think of the gift of the Holy Ghost—baptism by fire. Think of it as one sentence. First comes the baptism of water and then the baptism of fire.

Someone may ask the missionaries, “How are things going?” or “Are you teaching anyone?”

The missionaries automatically answer, “Yes, we have a family preparing for baptism and confirmation, for receiving the Holy Ghost.”

Or a father and mother might say to a child, “When you are eight years old, you will be ready to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.”

I repeat, to be baptized and to receive the Holy Ghost—link those two together.

Joseph Smith said, “The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected” (History of the Church, 6:316).

Nephi explains clearly what happens after baptism and confirmation and the reception of the Holy Ghost: “Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water [which is a symbolic witness of repentance]; and then cometh [the promise of cleansing for] a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:17).

We sometimes speak of baptism for the remission of sins. The remission, if you will read the scriptures carefully, comes through the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Missionaries sometimes think they are only to do half the work; they are to teach and then baptize by water, and that concludes their work. In many cases the other half, the teaching about the baptism of fire, never really gets done. Put the two together so that you almost forbid yourself to say “baptism” without saying “confirmation”—that is baptism of the water and confirmation and the conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Get that idea in your mind with those two fixed together so tightly that, as one, it becomes part of you. Then we will not have the first half done, as is often the case at present, and the other half left undone.

Missionaries—and parents as well—are to teach both halves: “Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins [and the] Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Articles of Faith 1:4). Make it one sentence. Fix it in the front of your minds so that when you say one, you say the other, and when you think one, you think the other. Then you will begin to feeland understand, and the promptings will come.

The Difference between Ask, Seek, Knock

One of the most quoted scriptures relating to prayer and revelation is the injunction from the Saviour found in Luke 11.9-10:

9  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

10 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
There are many related versions of this process mentioned throughout ancient and modern scripture, but how often do we consider that to ask, to seek, and to knock are not synonyms, and that the Saviour did not intend simply to say the same thing three different ways.  Although repetition is a powerful teaching tool, most often there are different meanings entrenched at different levels in His teachings.
There is a difference between ‘ask’, ‘seek’, and ‘knock’.
To ask means to give expression to our desires and intentions, to externalize our needs.  This is accomplished by praying vocally about our needs.  What we receive will be the enlightening power of the Holy Ghost.  We will receive guidance from the Spirit.
To seek means to begin taking the steps that are necessary to reach our desired goal.  We now have the Spirit to guide us and so we should move in the direction that the Spirit dictates.
When we have reached the point where the Spirit says – ‘this is the place’ – when we recognize that the Spirit has guided us to the people or place we ought to be to achieve what we originally asked for, we must indeed knock!  We cannot stand at the threshold of the door and not knock, not open the door, not step through!  We are now at the point where we must take action as the Spirit directs and as the Lord expects.  Our goals will be achieved through a combination of our own efforts, the mind and will of the Lord, and other people in our lives.
Simply put – we must ask for the guidance of the Spirit to obtain a blessing from God; we must seek after it diligently; and when the opportunity presents itself due to our diligence and obedience, follow through and obtain it.
A very common application of this is in the mission field:
  1. Ask for the Spirit of the Lord to guide you in your daily activities and you will receive His Spirit as you carry out your missionary activities.
  2. Go out and seek the pure in heart wherever they may be, continually using the Spirit to guide your steps throughout the day, and you will find the missionary opportunities you seek.
  3. When the Spirit whispers ‘this is the place’ or ‘this is the person you should contact’,  He requires that you knock on that door, that you open your mouth, that you testify and invite all to come unto Christ, and the Lord will reward you for your efforts by opening that door, opening the mind and heart of those you reach out to.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

 

These three elements are embedded in the word ASK itself – Ask, Seek, Knock.

A Pentecostal Season at the Kirtland Temple

The story of the building, preparation, and dedication of the Kirtland Temple is so spiritually rich and filled with visions that I quote below the entire section of the chapter in the Institute manual – ‘Church History in the Fulness of Times’.

A Pentecostal Season

In addition to their great personal efforts, the Saints spent from forty to sixty thousand dollars on the temple. Because they were so willing to sacrifice in building the temple, the Lord poured out great blessings upon them. From 21 January to 1 May 1836 probably more Latter-day Saints beheld visions and witnessed other unusual spiritual manifestations than during any other era in the history of the Church. Members of the Church saw heavenly messengers in at least ten different meetings, and at five of these gatherings different individuals testified that they had beheld the Savior himself. Many experienced visions, some prophesied, and others spoke in tongues.

One of the most important meetings held in the Kirtland Temple was on Thursday, 21 January 1836. The Prophet recorded the incident:

In the evening “at early candle-light I met with the presidency at the west school room, in the Temple, to attend to the ordinance of anointing our heads with holy oil. . . .

“We then laid our hands upon our aged Father Smith, and invoked the blessings of heaven. . . . The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof. . . . I saw . . . the blazing throne of God. . . . I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.” Joseph Smith also saw many prophets in the celestial kingdom before the scene of his vision shifted (see D&C 137:1, 3–5 ). He then saw the recently appointed Twelve “standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, . . . and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. . . .

“Many of my brethren who received the ordinance [of washing and anointing] with me saw glorious visions also. Angels ministered unto them as well as to myself, and the power of the Highest rested upon us. The house was filled with the glory of God, and we shouted Hosanna to God and the Lamb. . . .

“. . . Some of them saw the face of the Savior, . . . for we all communed with the heavenly host.” 38

Joseph Smith saw his brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom and marvelled because Alvin had died before the gospel was restored. Also with the vision the Lord revealed the principle of mercy: “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God” ( D&C 137:7 ). The Prophet also learned that all children who die before the age of accountability “are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” ( D&C 137:10 ).

Some of the most memorable spiritual experiences occurred on the day the temple was dedicated—Sunday, 27 March 1836. Hundreds of Latter-day Saints came to Kirtland anticipating the great blessings the Lord had promised to bestow upon them. Early on the morning of the temple dedication, hundreds of people gathered outside the temple hoping to attend the dedicatory service. The doors were opened at 8:00 a.m., and the First Presidency assisted in seating the congregation of nearly a thousand people, but many were left outside. When the leaders of the Church were seated at the elevated pulpits and benches at each end of the hall and when all the available seats in the temple were filled, the doors were closed. This left hundreds of people still outside, including many who had sacrificed tremendously for the temple’s construction and had come long distances to attend the dedication. Sensing their disappointment, the Prophet directed them to hold an overflow meeting in the schoolhouse just to the west. The dedicatory service was repeated a second time the following Thursday for their benefit.

After the choir’s opening number, President Sidney Rigdon spoke for two and a half hours declaring that the temple was unique among all the buildings of the world because it was built by divine revelation. After a brief intermission, the officers of the Church were sustained. The climax of the day was the dedicatory prayer, which had previously been given to the Prophet by revelation. He expressed gratitude for God’s blessings and asked the Lord to accept the temple which was built “through great tribulation . . . that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people” ( D&C 109:5 ). He petitioned that the blessings promised in the Lord’s initial command to build the temple (see D&C 88:117–21 ) might now be realized, and he prayed that Church leaders, members, and the leaders of nations would be blessed, and that the promised gathering of the scattered remnants of Israel would be accomplished (see D&C 109:60–67 ). This prayer became a pattern for other temple dedicatory prayers.

Kirtland Temple
Kirtland Temple

Following the prayer, the choir sang the hymn “The Spirit of God.” It had been written especially for the dedication by W. W. Phelps. The sacrament was then administered and passed to the congregation. Joseph Smith and others testified that they saw heavenly messengers at the service. The congregation concluded the seven-hour service by standing and rendering the sacred “Hosanna Shout”: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb, amen, amen, and amen,” repeated three times. Eliza R. Snow said the shout was given “with such power as seemed almost sufficient to raise the roof from the building.” 39

That evening over four hundred priesthood bearers met in the temple. While George A. Smith was speaking, “a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels.” 40 “David Whitmer bore testimony that he saw three angels passing up the south aisle.” 41 “The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple).” Others saw angels hovering over the temple and heard heavenly singing. 42

The most transcendent spiritual manifestation of all occurred a week after the dedication. After the afternoon worship service, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery retired to the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits in the west end of the lower room of the temple. The canvas partition, called a veil, was lowered so that they could pray in private. As they prayed, “the veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened” ( D&C 110:1 ). They saw a series of remarkable visions. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared, accepted the temple, and promised to manifest himself therein “if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house” ( D&C 110:8 ; see also vv. 2–9 ).

Moses next appeared and restored “the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” ( v. 11 ). Elias then conferred “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” ( v. 12 ). Finally, in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (see Malachi 4:5–6 ) and Moroni’s promise (see D&C 2 ) to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers” ( D&C 110:15 ), Elijah appeared to the Prophet and Oliver testifying that “the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands” in preparation for “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” ( v. 16 ). Through the sealing keys that were restored by Elijah, Latter-day Saints could now perform saving priesthood ordinances in behalf of their kindred dead as well as for the living. These sacred ordinances for the dead were not introduced to the members of the Church until the Nauvoo era.

This great day of visions and revelation occurred on Easter Sunday, 3 April 1836. What better day in the dispensation of the fulness of times to reconfirm the reality of the Resurrection? That weekend was also the Jewish Passover. For centuries Jewish families have left an empty chair at their Passover feasts, anticipating Elijah’s return. Elijah has returned—not to a Passover feast, but to the Lord’s temple in Kirtland.

Six Hour Fast & Testimony Meetings

In the early days of the church in Kirtland, fasst & testimony meetings lasted six hours:

The first Thursday of each month was fast day. In meetings that often lasted six hours, the Saints sang, prayed, bore their testimonies describing divine manifestations in their lives, and exhorted each other to live the gospel. Eliza R. Snow fondly remembered these gatherings as “hallowed and interesting beyond the power of language to describe. Many, many were the pentecostal seasons of the outpouring of the spirit of God on those days, manifesting the gifts of the Gospel and the power of healing, prophesying, speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, etc.” 28

28. Nicholas G. Morgan, comp., Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1957), p. 63.

A Witness of the Holy Ghost

Another early Ohio convert, Philo Dibble, who lived about five miles east of Kirtland, was told of a “golden Bible.” Curious, he sought out the missionaries and, after hearing Oliver Cowdery speak, believed and presented himself for baptism. His description of the spiritual power attending his reception of the Holy Ghost may be a clue to why so many early Saints found joy in the Restoration:

“When I came out of the water, I knew that I had been born of water and of the spirit, for my mind was illuminated with the Holy Ghost.

“. . . While in bed that night I felt what appeared to be a hand upon my left shoulder and a sensation like fibers of fire immediately enveloped my body. . . . I was enveloped in a heavenly influence, and could not sleep for joy.” 6

6. Philo Dibble, “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” Early Scenes in Church History (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882), pp. 75–76.