Upon this Rock
Matthew 16: 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
elsewhere we read
JST of John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone.
In both of these scriptures Christ is playing with words. Peter’s name wasn’t Peter, it was Simon. But Christ called him Peter, which was a word for rock. Christ also called him Cephas, which meant a stone. But Joseph Smith unveils the obvious word play by explaining that the reason Christ calls his chief apostle Simon by the names Peter and Cephas is that he is referring to Simon being called as a seer. It meant that at some point Simon would use a seerstone, or a Urim and Thummim, and become a seer.
If Christ is playing with calling Simon bar-Jonah a rock, by calling him Peter, what does Christ mean as he then says “upon this rock I will build my church”? Christ meant he would build his church on the rock of revelation.
Joseph Smith taught this plainly: “Jesus in His teachings says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ What rock? Revelation.”
When Christ said the wise man built his house upon the rock, he is again playing with words. He is saying that the wise man build his understanding of eternal truth on revelation. The wise man built his “mansions in heaven” on the rock of revelation given to seers.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “In promising him the keys of the kingdom, our Lord [told] Peter that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the rock of revelation, or in other words against seership. (Matt. 16:18.) Seers are specially selected prophets who are authorized to use the Urim and Thummim and who are empowered to know past, present, and future things. ‘A gift ,which is greater can no man have.’ (Mosiah 8:13–18.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., 1:133.)
Elder McConkie also wrote: “In this instance Jesus is telling Peter that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the rock of revelation; that is, as long as the saints are living in righteousness so as to receive revelation from heaven, they will avoid the gates of hell and the Church itself will remain pure, undefiled, and secure against every evil. But when, because of iniquity, revelation ceases, then the gates of hell prevail against the people.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:389.)
In what sense are we built on Christ if it is not by revelation? He is not our next door neighbor. We don’t have face to face dealings with him. We still see him through a glass darkly. Practically everything he said is given different interpretation by one group or another.
It is meaningless to say we know Christ except by revelation. It is pretending to say we are building on Christ except by revelation. He dwells in heaven, we dwell on earth. We know him by revelation, or we don’t know him at all.
And the root of that knowledge lies in Seers, for our knowledge of Christ through the Holy Ghost depends upon them, and the scriptures come to man from them. It depends on having a man on earth who can hold the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood so we can be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Put differently:
Moroni 7:29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
30 For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
31 And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.
32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.