What Is Authority?

authority

  1. The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  2. A person or organization having political or administrative power and control.
  3. The power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.

(Oxford English Dictionary)

The Book of Mormon speaks about authority in multiple ways, some positive and some negative. Today, I have found it useful to classify the 47 appearances of the term according to the three definitions given by the Oxford Dictionary:

  1. The ability to compel obedience (20)
  2. A delegated administrative duty (16)
  3. Persuasive ability (11)

“I seek not for power, but to pull it down”

Wherever the word “authority” means compulsion, the Book of Mormon universally condemns it:

  • Lehi defended Nephi from the accusation that he had sought authority over his brothers (2 Nephi 1:25).
  • Both the people of King Limhi and the people of Alma suffered because the Lamanites “[exercised] authority over them” (Mosiah 21:3, Mosiah 24:8-9), forcing them to carry heavy burdens and perform hard labor.
  • Captain Moroni made it his mission to fight against “those who sought power and authority over the people” (Alma 51:8). At least five times in his letter to Pahoran, the chief judge, he condemned “those who are seeking for power and authority” (Alma 60:16-18, 27-28). In the conclusion of his letter, he reaffirmed his own motives: “I seek not for power, but to pull it down” (Alma 60:36).
  • Mormon attributes the rise of the Gadianton robbers, and the consequent collapse of Nephite society, to the desire for authority (Helaman 2:5, Helaman 7:4, 3 Nephi 6:15).
  • After the Savior’s ministry on the American continent, the people who heard his teachings lived in peace for about 166 years. Eventually, pride returned, which led to contention, which led again to a desire for authority. A church was established which “did exercise power and authority over the disciples of Jesus who did tarry,” casting them into prison, into furnaces of fire, and into dens of wild beasts (4 Nephi 1:30-33).

“Having authority given me of Jesus Christ”

In any organization, definition of roles and responsibilities is important. When Alma baptized several hundred people at the waters of Mormon, he stated that he had authority from God to perform this ordinance (Mosiah 18:13). Thereafter, he ordained priests, instructed them on their duties, and clearly defined the limitations of their authority (Mosiah 18:18-26).

Later, as he established the church in the land of Helam and in the land of Zarahemla, he was careful who he chose and authorized to fulfill church functions (Mosiah 23:17). He warned the people that they should “trust no one to be [their] teacher nor [their] minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23:14).

When King Limhi and his people were converted to the gospel, they wanted to be baptized like the people of Alma, but they had to wait because “there was none in the land that had authority from God” (Mosiah 21:33).

When the Savior visited the American continent immediately following His death and resurrection, one of the first things He did was to clarify who was authorized to perform baptisms in His church. Calling Nephi forward, He said, “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven” (3 Nephi 11:21). He also authorized others to baptize. When they performed baptisms, they were instructed to specifically state that they were authorized to do so by Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 11:24-25).

“They taught with power and authority of God”

Many times in the Book of Mormon, the word “authority” refers to persuasive ability. Just as a prominent professor might be considered an “authority” on a subject (and therefore worthy of our attention and trust), servants of God can speak with such convincing power that people are persuaded to believe their message. For example:

  • When Alma the Younger met the sons of Mosiah at the end of the fourteen-year mission among the Lamanites, he was overwhelmed by their spiritual growth. They had searched the scriptures and “given themselves to much prayer and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2-3).
  • King Benjamin, with the help of “many holy prophets,” taught the gospel to his people “with power and authority,” with the result that peace was again established in the land (Words of Mormon 1:16-18).
  • The prophet Abinadi was able to deliver his entire message to King Noah and his priests, even though they didn’t want to hear it, because “the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster…and he spake with power and authority from God” (Mosiah 13:5-6).
  • The prophet Nephi and his brother Lehi were able to convince thousands of Lamanites of the truth of the gospel because they preached with “great power and authority” (Helaman 5:18-19). Many of those Lamanites, in turn, successfully taught many of the Nephites by preaching “with exceedingly great power and authority” (Helaman 6:4-5). Later, Mormon tells us that Nephi taught his own people with such power and authority that “it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words” (3 Nephi 7:17-18).

Conclusion

Today, I will remember what I have learned about authority from the Book of Mormon. I will remember that compulsion is not consistent with God’s will. I will strive to fulfill my responsibilities in the church, acting in a way that is consistent with the authority I have been given. I will also seek for persuasive power and authority in teaching the gospel, following the examples of the sons of Mosiah, Nephi and Lehi, and others.

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What Is the First Resurrection?

The apostle John foresaw a thousand-year period in which Satan would be bound and Christ and His disciples would reign over the earth. This is what we call the Millennium.

John said those who did not follow Christ would not “live again” until after the thousand year period was over. “This is the first resurrection,” he said, and then he added, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power” (Revelation 20:5-6).

Nearly a hundred years earlier, on the American continent, the prophet Abinadi also taught about the first resurrection. It would begin, he said, with the resurrection of Christ, and it would consist of faithful people who had lived and died before that time. Specifically, those who had obeyed God in this life—”all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God”— as well as those who would have obeyed him if they had known about the gospel—”they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them.” However, Abinadi warned that those who “rebel against [God] and die in their sins…have no part in the first resurrection” (Mosiah 15:21-26). Their resurrection will come later.

When Alma, who had been converted by the words of Abinadi, invited a group of people to be baptized at the waters of Mormon, he specifically identified the first resurrection as a reason to be baptized, and he equated the first resurrection with eternal life, the greatest gift we can receive from God:

…that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life (Mosiah 18:9).

Alma’s son, known as Alma the Younger, wanted to correct a misuse of the term “first resurrection” which had come into usage during his time. After explaining to his son Corianton that our spirits will be assigned to one of two “states” immediately after we die, he indicated that some have called this assignment a “first resurrection.” Even though he understood why people wanted to use this term, he wanted to clarify that the term “first resurrection” actually refers to a separate event that occurs later. Quoting Abinadi, Alma said:

There is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Alma 40:16).

And then he clarified the meaning of the term:

Now, we do not suppose that this first resurrection, which is spoken of in this manner, can be the resurrection of the souls and their consignation to happiness or misery. Ye cannot suppose that this is what it meaneth.
Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but it meaneth the reuniting of the soul with the body, of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ (Alma 40:17-18).

Alma wasn’t interested in specifying when we will be resurrected. But he did want Corianton to know that, for each of us, there will come a time after death when our spirit and our body will be reunited. This is our resurrection, and at that time, if we are righteous, we will “shine forth in the kingdom of God,” but if we are wicked, we will be permanently cut off from the presence of God, suffering the “second death.”

Today, I will I will strive to qualify for the first resurrection by keeping God’s commandments and staying true to my covenants with Him, so that I can one day overcome the second death and inherit eternal life.

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What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About the Millennium?

A millennium is a period of a thousand years. The Millennium is a thousand-year period of peace following the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The apostle John foresaw a time when Satan would be bound for a thousand years. Jesus Christ and His followers would govern the earth during that time (Revelation 20:1-7).

Isaiah foresaw a time of peace, in which “nation shall not lift of sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4, 2 Nephi 12:4). He also described this time of peace using a striking image of animals who are natural enemies living peacefully together:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9, 2 Nephi 21:6-9, 2 Nephi 30:12-15).

Why will Satan be bound, and why will there be peace? Nephi provides the answer in the last chapter of his first book:

Because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth (1 Nephi 22:26).

Simply put, Satan will have no power because people will no longer listen to him. Because they are no longer persuaded by his temptations, they will live righteously and will consequently enjoy peace.

After the Savior’s visit to the American continent, the people experienced a microcosm of the Millenium:

There were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift (4 Nephi 1:2-3).

This condition lasted for about 166 years. After that time,

There began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.
And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them (4 Nephi 1:24-25).

This inability to share their possessions represented the beginning of the end of their happy society. The people divided into social classes, then into different groups who hated one another. The happiness and peace they had enjoyed was gone, “because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts” (4 Nephi 1:28).

Unlike the Millenium, this society did not last 1,000 years, nor was it global in nature. But it had all of the characteristics of the Millennium: a group of people who learned to live together in peace and righteousness after being visited by the resurrected Savior. It is, therefore, a compelling description of what the Millennium might be like.

Today, I will be grateful for the insights the Book of Mormon provides about the Millennium. I will strive to live in a way that would be appropriate to that time: ignoring the temptations of Satan, prioritizing the well being of others, and being a peacemaker.

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What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Forty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He met one last time with his apostles at the Mount of Olives. They asked him if the time had come for the gathering of Israel, to which He responded, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” He reminded them of their duty, which was to be witnesses of Him in all the world. Then, He ascended into heaven, “and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:6-9).

As they stood looking upward, two angels appeared to them with a remarkable message:

Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

During this time, Jesus also visited a group of believers on the American continent. We don’t have a complete description of that multi-day visit, but we do know that, on the first day, He arrived by descending from heaven, and He departed by ascending into heaven (3 Nephi 11:8, 3 Nephi 18:38-39).

During the visit, the Savior shared some of the prophecies of Malachi, including the following:

The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness (3 Nephi 24:1-3, Malachi 3:1-3).

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (3 Nephi 25:5-6, Malachi 4:5-6).

What is “the day of His coming?” What is “the great and dreadful day of the Lord?” Mormon does not record the Savior’s explanation of these passages. He only tells us that the Savior “did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory” (3 Nephi 26:3).

Mormon concludes his description of the Savior’s American ministry by informing us that the publication of the Book of Mormon will coincide with the gathering of Israel and will precede the return of the Savior:

When the Lord shall see fit, in his wisdom, that these sayings shall come unto the Gentiles according to his word, then ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel, concerning their restoration to the lands of their inheritance, is already beginning to be fulfilled.
And ye may know that the words of the Lord, which have been spoken by the holy prophets, shall all be fulfilled; and ye need not say that the Lord delays his coming unto the children of Israel (3 Nephi 29:1-2).

From these passages, we learn the following:

  1. The Savior’s Second Coming will happen suddenly. It will catch the unprepared off guard.
  2. We need to be refined and purified by Him in order to be prepared for that day.
  3. Before that day, the prophet Elijah will come. This event occurred at the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon and restored priesthood power necessary to seal families together in temples. (See Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16.)
  4. The publication of the Book of Mormon is a sign that the Savior will soon return.

Why must the Book of Mormon and the coming of Elijah precede the Savior’s Second Coming? Because there must be people ready to meet Him when He comes. As President Russell M. Nelson taught earlier this week:

The crowning jewel of the Restoration is the holy temple. Its sacred ordinances and covenants are pivotal to preparing a people who are ready to welcome the Savior at His Second Coming (“Closing Remarks,” General Conference, October 2019).

Today, I will be grateful for the tools God has given to help me and others prepare for the return of His Son to the earth. I will remember that the Book of Mormon and the temple can refine and purify us so that we will be ready to meet Him when He comes.

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What Is Joy?

The Greek word for joy is chara (χαρά). It is related to the word charis (χάρις), which means “grace.” Thus, Strong’s Concordance defines the term as “joy because of grace” or “the awareness of God’s grace.”

No wonder that Enos sought forgiveness of his sins after remembering his father’s words about “the joy of the saints” (Enos 1:3).

No wonder the people of King Benjamin were “filled with joy” when they “received a remission of their sins” (Mosiah 4:3).

No wonder Alma the Younger described his own experience of receiving forgiveness in these words:

Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold….
There could be nothing so exquisite and bitter as were my pains…and…there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy (Alma 36:21).

No wonder Mormon described the reunion of Alma with the sons of Mosiah in words which linked their joy with their repentance:

This is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness (Alma 27:18).

Two of the speakers in general conference last weekend quoted the following statement from President Russell M. Nelson:

The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Joy of the Saints” and Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Fruit“).

Today, I will remember that joy is a recognition or awareness of God’s grace in my life. When I receive the grace of God through Jesus Christ, I feel joy regardless of the challenges I face. I will strive to stay close to my Savior, so that I can continue to experience “the joy of the saints.”

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What Are Some Things That I Can’t Delegate?

My question today was inspired by the following passage, which I also quoted in yesterday’s post:

The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name (2 Nephi 9:41).

I’ve been thinking all day about the fact that there are some things the Savior can’t delegate. Only He could suffer for our sins. Only He could willingly give up His life and take it up again, inaugurating the resurrection for all of us. And only He can open the gate which admits us to the path leading to eternal life. He can’t subcontract any of those tasks. He asks us, as His disciples, to do many other things on His behalf, but when it comes to His central role as our Savior and Redeemer, “He employeth no servant.” As the hymn says, “He only could unlock the gate of heav’n and let us in” (“There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” Hymns, 194).

So the question I’ve been pondering is this: What are some things that I cannot delegate? And by recognizing that no one else can do those things, would I prioritize those tasks differently?

Here are some of the nondelegable tasks that have come to mind:

  • Praying
  • Exercising
  • Spending time with my wife and children
  • Learning
  • Repenting
  • Recognizing and responding to personal revelation

Today, I will pay particular attention to the activities in my life that no one else can do on my behalf. I will prioritize those activities, dedicating focused time and attention to them.

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Will We Be Judged by the Apostles?

During His mortal ministry, Jesus told His twelve apostles that they would one day “sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).

An angel explained to the prophet Nephi that the apostles would judge the tribes of Israel and that the twelve disciples chosen on the American continent would in turn judge his descendants:

Thou rememberest the twelve apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.
And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood (1 Nephi 12:9-10).

The prophet Mormon later reaffirmed this teaching:

I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem.
And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem (Mormon 3:18-19).

But Nephi’s brother Jacob testified that Jesus Christ alone will judge us:

The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name (2 Nephi 9:41).

How can the apostles judge us if, as Jacob states, we will all be judged by God Himself?

Let me start by making things a little more confusing:

  • The prophet Amulek said that we will one day stand “before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to [our] works” (Alma 11:44). So we will be judged by all three members of the Godhead, who will be perfectly unified in their decisions.
  • The apostle Paul said to the members of the church in Corinth that they would one day stand as judges: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
  • Alma taught that we will actually judge ourselves: “They are their own judges,” he said, speaking of people after the resurrection (Alma 41:7). He also described the event in terms of rigorous introspection and self-assessment: Our words, works, and thoughts will condemn us, he says, “and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God” (Alma 12:13-15). And King Benjamin taught that our guilt will cause us “to shrink from the presence of the Lord” (Mosiah 2:38, Mosiah 3:25). (See also 2 Nephi 9:14, 46.)

One thing we know for sure: no one will complain about the judgments rendered at that time. “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” that the judgments rendered are fair and accurate (Mosiah 27:31, Romans 14:11-12, Isaiah 45:23).

We also know that an important part of our judgment will be an awareness of the invitations we have received from others. For example:

  • Nephi closes his record by saying, “What I seal on earth shall be brought against you at the judgment bar” (2 Nephi 33:15).
  • Jacob believed that, if he did not teach the word of God, then the blood of the people would come upon his garments at the last day (Jacob 1:19). During one sermon, he dramatically waved his robe in front of his audience as a symbol that he had shaken their iniquities off of his soul by teaching them the gospel (2 Nephi 9:44).
  • Moroni ended the entire Book of Mormon by bidding us all farewell, “until my spirit and my body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the Great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” (Moroni 10:34).

Perhaps the question of who will actually speak the verdict is the wrong question. Every judgment rendered at that day will be according to the will of God. Every judgment will be perfectly just, and all present will agree.

And the invitations we have received will be on full display. Every apostle, every prophet, every teacher who has encouraged us, warned us, and pleaded with us to accept the gospel will be there, and we will clearly see the opportunities we were given. They will be our judges in that sense: we will know that they did their part to help us succeed. If we failed to accept their invitations, we will know that it was our choice, that they are not to blame, that we are fully accountable.

Today, I will be grateful for a perfectly just and loving God who wants me to arrive joyfully at that judgment bar. I will be grateful for prophets, ancient and modern, and for others who have taught me how to receive the gifts of grace which the Savior has offered me and which I will desperately need at that time. I will remember that I will be judged by God, and that the accuracy of that judgment will be evident to all who are present, including those who have labored diligently to help me prepare for that day.

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