We know we are saved by grace, but are content to live beneath our privileges

Saved by grace and living beneath our privileges

There is a great irony we live and teach day to day. We know that we are saved by grace, and we are convinced (and rightly convinced) that it is crucially important that we are saved by grace.
We also know that we live far beneath our privileges, but we are conconcerned about this, and have remained so not just for a week or a year, but for generation after generation.

And this is an incredible irony.

Because privileges that we feel so unconcerned about is the very grace that we hope to be saved by.

Let me say that again, it bears repeating:

The privileges that we live beneath without fear or concern is the very grace we are inteded to be saved by.

What do we read of the Melchizedek priesthood?

D&C 107:18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

We think these are unimportant divine gospel perks reserved for the prophet and the twelve.

But does the Lord give the priesthood except to save his people? If these are indeed the “power and authority of the priesthood” shouldn’t those power and authority be about our own salvation and exaltation.

And indeed they are. They are the rights of the priesthood. They are inseparable connected with the powers of heaven.

And they are outside our power to grant to ourselves.

But they can save us. They are graces of God, by which we hope to be saved.

We hope to be saved by grace, but ironically, we have known for generation that we live beneath those graces that God privileges his saints with to save them.

And we are notoriously unconcerned about that.

Am I saying anyone that doesn’t have dreams and visions will not be exalted? To say that is far more than I know. We cannot complete the whole path to exalation in this life.

But I stand by God’s word that he that seeketh God early will find him.

And I know that there is a terrible irony among us. We want to be saved by grace, and knowingly live beneath the gifts God would bestow, which is the very grace he would save us by.

How can we live up to our privileges. Well, I live far beneath mine, and you live far beneath yours. What shall be done? Just believe more?

No. We must do better. First and foremost in this generation we must cast of the chains of our media, for to watch that which is immoral or in any way meant to seduce or present us with a little sleaze that we will accept as OK or that teaches that immorality is normal is poison as it offends the Holy Ghost.

And we must also engage in those activities which bring the Holy Ghost most powerfully into our lives. We must save our dead, seek to convert people to the truth, and teach our own family the words of eternal life.

I end with a statement by Joseph Smith.

What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world. But, said Mr. Sollars, “May I not repent and be baptized, and not pay any attention to dreams, visions, and other gifts of the Spirit?” I replied: “Suppose I am traveling and am hungry, and meet with a man and tell him I am hungry, and he tells me to go yonder, there is a house of entertainment, go and knock, and you must conform to all the rules of the house, or you cannot satisfy your hunger; knock, call for food, sit down and eat;–and I go and knock, and ask for food, and sit down to the table, but do not eat, shall I satisfy my hunger? No. I must eat. The gifts are the food; and the graces of the Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit.  (TPJS page 270)

and another statement by the prophet

The Savior has the words of eternal life. Nothing else can profit us. There is no salvation in believing an evil report against our neighbor. I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the Priesthood is for that purpose. (TPJS page 364)

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Joseph Smith – I am going forward .. I beseech you to go forward to a sure election

Joseph Smith (TPJS page 366)
—————————————
I am going on in my progress for eternal life. It is not only necessary that you should be baptized for your dead, but you will have to go through all the ordinances for them, the same as you have gone through to save yourselves. There will be 144,000 saviors on Mount Zion, and with them an innumerable host that no man can number. Oh! I beseech you to go forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure; and if any man preach any other Gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed

The main point of D&C 63 is perfect and simple.

I have written several times about D&C 63. What the section is really getting at is relatively straightforward, but still hard for us to see, I think mostly because of our own traditions.

The main point is simple and perfect. It is this:

If a man who belongs to the church is doing something that would cause him to suffer in the lake of fire and brimstone, then he must either repent, or the church must cut him off.

It is simple. When put that way, it is also rather obvious. You can’t be doing things that will land you in the lake of fire and brimstone and remain in the church unless you repent, cease, and desist. That is the Lord’s standard.

This clearly includes a man doing any of the things the Lord openly states he will give someone a part in the lake of fire and brimstone.

We try and be clever and wiggle our way out of such a command. For instance, the Lord many times says that liars will have their place in the lake of fire and brimstone.

Interestingly, there are those among us who would argue against such a standard simply by being silly about it. For example, let us say I state such a standard and then quote an accompanying verse, such as:

D&C 63:17 Wherefore, I, the Lord, have said that the fearful, and the unbelieving, and all liars, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, and the whoremonger, and the sorcerer, shall have their part in that lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Then somebody will immediately loudly object saying “Are you saying people should be excommunicated if they just tell one lie!?” And, no, of course I am not. And we should have that much common sense. Because frankly I don’t think any of us read that verse and think to ourselves that the Lord is saying that anyone who tells one lie will burn in the lake of fire and brimstone.

But if you do not even qualify as an “honorable man of the earth” like those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom, if you are such a liar that you cannot even be counted as an “honorable man of the earth”, then you also do not belong in the church and you should repent, or be cast out. If you are doing something that makes you merit the lake of fire and brimstone, you should repent, or be cast out.

So I will repeat the principle, and hope we can figure it out. If you are doing something for which God makes men suffer in the lake of fire and brimstone you should repent, or be cast out. And that is the principle of D&C 63. Because the church MUST, above all things, be justified before its God. It is profitable that one man should perish, rather that a whole church dwindle and perish in unbelief. Or even better, that man could just repent, given the plain options standing before him.

Our false mercy to our sons is cruel without measure to our daughters

We think it is merciful to let men engage in pornography with only limited lost of blessings, and with no threat of losing their membership, despite what the scripture plainly lays out.

Then some girl in the church marries a man in the temple and finds that he has been partaking of pornography for years, that he is, not surprisingly, addicted again two months after the wedding, and that he isn’t even aroused by her a short time after the marriage.

And we call ourselves merciful for doing it.

God knows best. He lays the case out plainly in D&C 63. He lists out the things that are among his members at that time. With no lack of foresight into the future, he includes those who look on a woman to lust after her among them. He then says that his church is not justified because these things are among them. Later, continuing this message, so they cannot misunderstand the seriousness of the matter, he states the two possibilities that lay before them at that juncture in time.

D&C 63:63 Wherefore, let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord, will own them; otherwise they shall be cut off.

When the God of heaven says to his church that it is not justified and threatens to cut it off we had best pay strict heed. His message was plain enough. These are things that you need to get rid of one way or another. There are only two ways to do that. One is for the person to repent. The other is to cast them out. Those are the only two ways it can be done.

It is exactly the same counsel given to Alma. The transgressor who would not repent had to be cast out.

Except that D&C 63 fills that counsel in with a list of particulars. And looking on a woman to lust after her is one of them. Whatever that meant in 1831 is a tiny, miniscule fraction of what those who watch pornography are looking at now.

We must have enough pity on our daughters to stand by God’s word. It will be more merciful to the men if we do.

But most particularly, we prove cruel without measure to our daughters when we don’t.

The Father’s words from the beginning

There are great fundamental truths given us by the Father in the beginning of the world. They define the family in God’s own image. As we have forgotten those most fundamental commandments our society has brought on itself sorrow and turned to destruction.

Christ deferred reverently to the sacred commandments and truths the Father gave at the beginning of the world when he said to the Pharisees 
Math 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Without hesitation Christ defers to what the Father laid out at the beginning as being the higher law. He states directly that Moses’ exception is something Moses suffered Israel to do because of the hardness of their hearts.
In the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis we read another great truth from the Father which was “from the beginning”.
Moses 2:27 And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.

The world is in open rebellion against the truth that man was created both male and female and thereby was created in the image of his Only Begotten. They attack this statement by the Father with all the energy they can gather together. They form laws to oppose its reality. Rejecting this statement by God has become a fundamental and defining principle of the wicked in our day. We are, in this day, somewhat defined by whether we kowtow to this ridiculousness and thus bow our head to the adversary and his dictates. 
And sadly, the saints are not immune. The throes among our members in rebellion against the Father’s own words that he created male and female in the image of God is an open shame to us.

Other truths were spoken by the Father in the beginning. We already read that Christ himself quoted to the Pharisees:
Moses 2:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Divorce is rampant among us. Our wards are littered with the tragic results – broken homes and men and women married two or three times with children scattered across the fostering of the varied one time spouses. This is horrific, and it comes from rejecting what the Father laid out in the beginning ofthe world. 
We must return to that which was from the beginning, or lose that which has been restored at the end.

Will our temple marriages stand in eternity if we are less committed to them now than the wicked men who persecuted and drove the saints were committed to their marriages in their day? Do Christ’s words to the Pharisees about divorce stand equally as a reproof to those of the true church in our day as well? Do we think it no small matter to find ourselves in the Pharisee’s company?

The Father also said in the Garden of Eden
Moses 2:28 And I, God, blessed them, and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,…
The commandment to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth was the first commandment given to mankind. Birth control and limiting the number of our children stand directly against this commandment given by the Father from the beginning. 
And what are the results? 
Our society has been transformed from a society which valued decency to one which values and protects immorality and perversion. The dramatic changes birth control brought to society no longer leap out at us, as life before that time is now long past, but birth control played a tremendous role in destroying the morality of our society. The “sex” part of the sexual revolution came about because women could engage in sex with little risk of pregnancy. If hippy communes had been full of pregnant young mothers and the requisite number of toddlers and young children with their many needs they would have rapidly come to naught. It was sex without the responsibility of pregnancy that opened the door for the transformation of morality from a defining part of human character to a passe’ notion of the past among our society.
But this is speaking of the world. Among the saints birth control has become a standard practice. I know those who were counseled by stake presidency members to put off having children.

Do we think the Holy Ghost will stand with us as we freely cast off the commands of the Father? Do we think in doing so we will find that we are above reproof?

How can we hope to have a family for eternity while openly violating the command to multiply and replenish the earth that is part of sealing a living couple. Of course that part is left out when sealing the dead. The dead make no covenants that are impossible for them to keep, or how could they receive the blessings? And it is impossible for the dead to multiply and replenish the earth. But the living are sealed with a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and it is the same commandment given to Adam and Eve because it is the same eternal covenant Adam and Eve enjoyed. 

How can we hope to have the blessings of an eternal marriage in this life (and there are blessings of incalculable value in this life) or in the next if we reject the accompanying commandment? If I buy a house and do not pay the mortgage, I expect to lose it. If I buy a car, but do not pay I expect to lose it. If I drive a car off the lot with a contract to pay for it, but do not then keep my agreement, I expect to end up no different than a man that simply didn’t buy the car in the first place.

On what basis do we expect greater blessings than those with no eternal marriage covenant if we do not keep the commandment that was made with the covenant?

Other words were spoken by the Father in Eden. After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil we read:
Moses 4:22 Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
23 And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
24 Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
25 By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return.
I have written very recently on the command to Eve, so I won’t repeat it here. But I do point out that we have tossed that command off as if it were a yoke of bondage and rejoiced to have done so. The result is feminism which takes women outside of the home and teaches women to be self centered and selfish. Before all this, women in the church seemed to have more confidence. Now they need constant reassurance because they don’t FEEL as special. In older days when their lives revolved around their husband and children they were following the Savior. Now women have turned to an unfulfilling quest for fulfillment instead. They have an ever increasing list of unfulfilled needs, and yet seem obsessed with celebrating women for the sake of women. It’s like they are having a perpetual party for themselves. But the reason for the quest for self fulfillment is that they have thrown off pretty much every aspect of what the Father had to say in the garden of Eden: not to divorce, the father as the head of the home, multiplying and replenishing the earth. What is left for them to strictly obey? Celebrating being special will never substitute for simply living by the Father’s words, knowing that he that seeth in secret will reward you openly.
The Father’s command about providing is directed to Adam. The Father directs those words to Adam because it is the man’s responsibility to provide for his family. A man who chooses not to provide for his family has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
However, the offense of not striving to provide the necessities of life for one’s family is not the main trouble of men today, nor is it the main way in which men violate what the Father laid out from the beginning. 
The main problem of men today is violating the command that God put Adam and Eve together and made them one flesh. It was only by being united in marriage that men and women can engage in sexual activity. And so it was from the beginning. While women suffer from immorality today, the men are being immoral as if they were no more than beasts. They do what they will without restraint. In the world men think they aren’t even dating a woman unless they are having sex with her.
In the church immorality is taking an enormous and horrific hold. The single among us engage in perverse practices such as “friends with benefits”. Pornography, in particular, has become a plague among us, as it afflicts not only our single members but our married members young and old as well. Not surprisingly, we are seeing more and more gender apostasy among us as well.

Whereas the women’s failures are terribly destructive, the failures of the men on the point of pornography are simply devastating if they are not handled the way God dictates in the scriptures. If they are handled properly, then those who do not drop pornography will not be kept in the church if they will not cease in short order. If they are handled by the scriptures, invoking the word “addiction” will not allow them to continually partake of that which is immoral and still enjoy the benefits of the church. This is laid out in D&C 63. It is also plain sense. You are not a member of the church if you are reveling in pornography for hours at a time. And those who claim they are addicted are not looking five minutes once a week.

If pornography is handled “lightly”. If we decide that, because the magic of the word “addiction” has been invoked than the person is not making a choice to revel in immorality for significant amounts of time on a nearly daily basis, and think that somehow means they be allowed to continue doing that each day without losing their membership, or far worse, decide that won’t stop them from partaking of the sacrament and the temple, then we will cast the spirit out of our wards and will destroy the work of God out from among us.

The destruction of our society is a result of neglecting those things that the Father laid out from the beginning. While the world neglects, and even openly rebels against them, in the church we must honor them. But instead we have been following the path laid out by the world, lagging behind at some fixed distance. We can speak Christ’s names in lilting tones all we want, but if it is not coupled with obedience to the father it is all meaningless. We must ask ourselves Nephi’s question: can we can we follow the Son save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? 
We. Can. Do. Better.

Let us recall what was laid out by the Father in the beginning and stand immovably there. Knowing our Father’s will, let us resolutely obey it. Let us remember those things that were from the beginning, that we can truly restore everything that has been lost. Let us live so that our hearts and lives cry out in testimony to our Father that we believed Christ’s words “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.

Plainly discern and plainly speak

We need to see, and plainly speak, of things as they really are.

But to do so, we need to see things as they are seen by the light of the gospel.

We must to speak with discernment, and not take be duped by every sleight of hand the adversary has to offer. We need to judge good to be good, and evil to be evil, seeking diligently in the light of Christ.

When we read the scriptures we are reading words written by those who do exactly that. They are our models, not an alternative way to live the gospel..

Examples from the scriptures abound. I will use the first couple of chapters in Alma. Here are example verses from them.

Alma 1:6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart

Already, some members of the church would object if you saw the world and talked about it this way. But it is, fortunately, what we find in the scriptures. Alma has the sense to see that this man is being lifted up in pride, and plainly says as much. Of this we can be certain, Nehor didn’t SAY he was lifted up in the pride of his heart. Since he preached that which he termed to be the word of God, he probably CLAIMED humility.

Alma 1:17 Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief

Note that these people didn’t SAY that they were pretending. Alma discerns this. He has that much sense. He recognizes what is really going on. Then he writes that without apology. He doesn’t say “some of them may have been sincere, but I think some were pretending”. He discerns what is the case, and he says and he writes it without remorse or apology. He also doesn’t fret about whether he included any possible exceptions who someone might have argued where simply deluded, but somewhat sincere. He just says it like it is.

Alma 1:29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need

Be sure that the riches did not come with tags attached that said “You got this because of your exceeding steadiness in the church”. The fact that their exceeding riches and abundance were BECAUSE of their steadiness was discerned by Alma through the light of Christ. He doesn’t apologize for that. He doesn’t back down from it. He simply states it because it is true. And that is all the adornment the plain truth should have. No apology, just the truth.

Alma 1:32 For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.

We already learned that lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and of course murdering were all against the law. So when Alma says these things, he is speaking of things that were, by and large, kept secret. He knows what is really going on. He knows what is really going on in a church like Nehor’s which preaches that all mankind will be saved. He knows who that will appeal to. And he writes down what they are up to. He doesn’t apologize for doing so. He simply states it.

Alma 2:4 Therefore, if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God.

While the church had been going through persecution, it is almost certain Amlici’s election campaign wasn’t run on an open promise to destroy the church of God. But anyone with half an ounce of spiritual sense knew that was what was going to happen if Amlici was elected.

We face similar things today. We give power and special legal rights to those who most want our destruction, and then are surprised when they use that power to try to destroy us. We aren’t using spiritual sense. We aren’t learning to discern.

If anything, we seem to be trying hard to teach each other that discerning is wrong. I think it is fair to say that if most of these verses were corresponding statements today made in a mormon Sunday School, there are good odds that someone would try to correct the person who said them. They would be accused of being judgmental for stateing what was found in Alma 1:6, 17, 29, 32. Some wise person would accuse them of oversimplifying for stating Alma 1:17, 29, 32 or Alma 2:4. Someone would point out what these people had said about themselves, and use that to disagree with what could be seen to be the plain truth with half an ounce of spiritual insight.

And we must stop doing so. We must look to the scriptures, and not our relativist education. We must plainly discern the truth and plainly speak it if we are to wend our way through the difficulties growing up about us. We must do so if we are to wisely raise God’s childern up unto him. We must do so to navigate in a world that is increasingly evil.

And we must do so if we want more light that we now have, for we will not pass by the light that is easily available to us, and then lay hold on that which is less easily found.

God forces a choice

Christ’s sermon on the mount illustrates a general truth about the living God. Multiple times he cites the words of previous prophets and then adds “but I say unto you” and offers a different commandment than what is found in the law of Moses.

Christ is not just offering a better way of living. He is forcing his followers to choose between him and between what they have inherited, even though what they inherited actually came from him in a former time. He is forcing them to chose between living prophets and dead prophets. He is forcing them to choose between what they have been taught is right, and what he is teaching them then.
And he almost always does that. He forces us to choose whether or not we are committed to him.
While he was alive Christ’s disciples didn’t fast. Fasting is a commandment in the law of Moses. But Christ told his followers not to fast, saying they should not be mourning while he, the Messiah, was with them. He made them choose between what they found in the scriptures and following him. He made them choose whether or not they believed he was a prophet that could give new practices in place of what older prophets had revealed for their day. 
The Sabbath is a big deal in the law of Moses. In Moses’ day one man was put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. But after the resurrection Christ has his followers worship on the 1st day of the week instead of on the day the scriptures give as the Sabbath. In effect, he had them all violating the Sabbath according to what Moses had revealed, and according to what they had rightly grown up with in their youth as a commandment. But in doing so they are, in truth, following God, rather than violating his commandments. By violating his former commandment, in favor of his new one, they prove they are committed to him. And he intentionally put them in a circumstance where they must choose.
He tests whether we are serious. He puts us in the position of having to Choose.
What is really going on is not just a choice between dead prophets and living prophets, but a choice between obedience to him, the living God, as he commands us now, and anything else. Even between obedience to him, and adherence to principles we grew up with.
What he wants to know, ultimately, is whether we will obey him. Period. 
Thus Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. Murder is against the commandments. Murder of one’s own child is HUGELY against the commandments. In fact, shedding innocent blood isn’t even covered by the atonement as Joseph Smith explained.
Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, an angel intervening when Abraham’s obedience was certain.
In these latter days God forced the early saints to choose between obedience to him, the living God, and between what they already had. For example, the visions of the degrees of glory forced them to choose, for Christ himself speaks only of heaven and hell in the new testament. Another challenging revelation to the saints would have been the revelation that hell has an end, which changes the meaning of many existing scriptures.
The mammoth one would have been polygamy. The Lord put them in the position of having to choose “will we do this?”,  “are we that committed to this?”, “do we believe in this so much that we will risk our eternal life pursuing it?” That last question is kind of the point. The Lord wants to know whether we believe him so much that we will stake our eternal life on it. If the church had been false, polygamy would have been an abomination destroying the souls of those who were involved in it and dooming them to damnation unless they repented. But the church is true, and polygamy was endorsed by God himself and living it was inspired of the Holy Ghost in that day.
We have not finished these tests.
We already know that animal sacrifice will one day be restored. Joseph Smith laid that out plainly in at least two different places in teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. 
Joseph Smith said:

“It is a very prevalent opinion that the sacrifices which were offered were entirely consumed. This was not the case; if you read Leviticus 2:2-3, you will observe that the priests took a part as a memorial and offered it up before the Lord, while the remainder was kept for the maintenance of the priests; so that the offerings and sacrifices are not all consumed upon the altar–but the blood is sprinkled, and the fat and certain other portions are consumed.

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass? It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.”
 (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 172)

The first paragraph here leaves us in no doubt that we are talking about actual animal sacrifice. He even discusses some of the details of how it is to be done.

In fact, Joseph Smith said here that animal sacrifice is always present when the powers of the Melchizedek priesthood are sufficiently manifest. Thus when it is restored, it will not just be a one time event. It is part of the restoration of all things that is necessary to have all the blessings in place necessary to establish Zion once again upon the earth.

We don’t even live the law of consecration yet, so we hardly need to worry about sacrifice being restored anytime soon. 

But one day we, or our posterity, will start living up to our privileges, and somewhere along that path sacrifice will be restored. And when it is we will find ourselves having to choose. And frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be more times he will force us to choose between him and our traditions along the way besides that one. Joseph Smith also taught:

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen. (Jan. 20, 1844.) DHC 6:183-185.

Cultural guesses about second coming of no value, but revelation always is

We have a mental picture of how the events of the second coming will take place, and of how the millennium will unfold upon the earth.

Israel had a mental picture of how the events of the coming of the Messiah would take place. And the mental picture they had was almost completely wrong. It may be fairly said, that for most of them their mental picture helped them miss the actual event.

Yes, the scriptures concerning Christ’s coming to Israel all proved to be correct. In fact, correct even in minute detail.

But when the people at large tried to take the scriptures and use them to assemble a picture of how events would unfold, they got it horribly wrong. They thought their messiah would come in force and deliver them from the Romans. But that isn’t even close to what happened. It was completely wrong.

So we should not hold too firmly to those parts of our mental picture of the second coming that we are not absolutely certain of.

We will find that the scriptures on the matter will all be correct. Every jot and tittle will be fulfilled. Nevertheless, our mental picture of those events may be a great deal unlike what we have wanted to guess about those events.

We do know that Christ will return and reign personally upon the earth. We do know it is the last days. We do know the wicked will be destroyed. We do know Zion will return. We do know that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. We do know every jot and tittle of the scriptures will be fulfilled.

And, while guesses are of no particular value, revelation is a completely different matter. If we seek in the scriptures and live up to our privileges, what will the Holy Ghost withhold from us? Were not such things laid out plainly by revelation to both Nephi and John the Revelator? Would the Lord not be pleased to lay them out before us just as well when we live up to such a privilege? It may be contrary against the economy of heaven for us to write about it. Not even Nephi was allowed to do that.

But if what we are after is personal knowledge for ourselves and those few we have the right to instruct by revelation, what will God withhold from us if we prove faithful?

The prophet’s leadership, the church’s revelations, and the degrees of glory

Joseph Smith taught “Some people say I am a fallen Prophet, because I do not bring forth more of the word of the Lord, Why do I not do it? Are we able to receive it? No! Not one in this room. He then chastened the congregation for their wickedness and unbelief, ‘for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son and daughter whom he receiveth,’ and if we do not receive chastisements then we are bastards and not sons.”

The same principle has remained true for the entirety of the church’s existence. 
The prophet brings forth the word of the Lord to his people as they are able to receive it. And of course the prophet can receive revelation for himself independently.
Let the prophet receive for himself as far as he is prepared, he will only receive for the people according to their willingness to listen. Of what purpose is it to move on to the next principles when we are already finding condemnation for not obeying the ones we have. Isn’t it more sensible to come out from disobedience to the first which was easier before being given the second which will require more from us?
Now there is more to this that needs to be said. Must the people have faith equal to the prophet’s for the prophet to receive the word of the Lord for them? No, or they could have gotten the revelation for themselves.
They must depend upon the chosen vessels of the Lord for the word of the Lord. And if they will pay heed to it then they will be given more. But there is an enormous difference between what the Lord will reveal to them in their disobedience, and what the Lord is willing to reveal privately to his prophet in his obedience.
They are at different levels, and the one reaches down to lift up others to his level. And even as he does so, those above him beyond the veil are reaching down to lift him to a higher level, for he also has a long way to go, though not so far as those whom he leads.
As Joseph Smith said: When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel–you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry “treason” and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.
And there is still one more thing that needs to be said about this. The principle is not just that one reaches down and lifts those above one up to one’s own level. The principle is that doing so is one of the primary means by which one climbs to a higher level. You need someone above you to give you the needed instruction, but you progress primarily by turning around and lifting those beneath you.
While not commonly noted, this is intended in D&C 76. The reason the terrestrial minister to the telestial is that in doing so they are glorified. The reason the celestial minister to the terrestrial is that in doing so they are glorified. That may be the role of those who are ministering servants, but who cannot have an increase. But the celestial do not minister in person to the telestial any more than God appears in glory to the body of the church until they have proven that they are worthy of at least living in a Terrestrial Eden.

The sword of Laban unsheathed

Not every question is a good question. Recently there was an entire article on an lds website addressing the apparently troubling issue of why Nephi was commanded to kill Laban.

To which, I feel like, a good response is “Have you READ the old testament?” Another better response might be “if God’s own answer to Nephi about why he should kill Laban isn’t good enough for you, then what can be done for you? If you get another answer you think is better, should you trust it more?”

But perhaps, to give a more meaningful answer, I will quote Brigham Young about the sword of Laban

I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.” I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. (Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses “Trying to be Saints, etc…” 19:36)

The sword being unsheathed is a symbol of the destruction of the wicked “until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ”. So the sword of the Laban really is a symbol. but it is a symbol of the destruction of the wicked. It is a symbol of what it actually is. Destroying the wicked to bring about the Lord’s righteous purposes.

So, in reality, my Brigham Young quote is just the Lord’s answer given to Nephi at the time:

1 Nephi 4:12 … Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
 13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.