Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Musing on Priesthood keys 4 - D&C 28

Keys as used in D&C 28
1 Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.
2 But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.
3. And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.
4 And if thou are let at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.
5 But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom.
6 And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church.
7 For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.

12 For, behold, these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants.
13 For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.
14 And thou shalt assist to settle all these things, acoording to the covenants of the church, .....

16 And thou must open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing. Amen.


There was a point Joseph Fielding McConkie once made. I think it may have been in his book "Between the Lines". He discussed trying to get students to read the scriptures without the context of everything they had ever heard about them. He discussed trying to get students to read the scriptures as if they were learning the gospel for the first time from the scriptures, and as if they had never before heard or read the verses they were reading.

I think that is crucially important. For how else can we break with our traditions than to put them away as we read and see what the text says. Thus, as I go over the scriptures on keys, my intention is not to say "here is what keys are, so lets see what the text says given that we already know that." My intention is to do the opposite.

In none of the previous scriptures on keys that I have gone over did we see any of the connections that are made in this section.

When we read D&C 13, there was no indication that the "keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins" had anything to do with presiding. As stands, without other scriptures, D&C 13 is saying that the Aaronic priesthod holds the ability to unlock the ministering of angels, and the ability to unlock the gospel of repentance, and the ability to unlock baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. And that is as far as revealed truth about keys goes in D&C 13.

But here in D&C 28 we get something interesting. Oliver is told he can teach anything about the existing revelations that the Holy Ghost inspires him with (verse 1). Then we learn that no one else is going to recieve commandments and revelations for the church except Joseph Smith. The Lord will freely pour out revelations on all by the Holy Ghost as the scriptures testify, e.g.

1 Nephi 10:17 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy ghost, which power he received by fatih on the Son of God - and the Son of God was the messiah who should come - I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

So when the Lord speaks of receiving revelations and commandments, he is speaking of revelations of the sort Joseph Smith recieved. He is talking about revelation that is dictated by God as the revelations Joseph Smith recieved were. Such revelation is perfect as god is perfect. It is as perfect as if the voice of the Lord was speaking. It was given to Joseph Smith through the means of the urim and thummim. The words of the old testament come to mind when the Lord reproves Aaron and Miriam for speaking against Moses.

Numbers 11:6 And he said, Here now my words: If there be a prpoeht among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he bheold; wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses.
9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.

Thus the Lord himself distinguished among those he calls prophets. Those prophets who he speaks to in dreams and visions, such as Lehi and Nephi, are called prophets by the Lord. But God still distinguishes pointed out that speaking with God face to face as Moses did makes these dreams and visions "dark speeches" by comparison. They are dark in that they are nowhere as clear and perfect as simply discussing with the Lord face to face.

And the revelations and commandments refered to in D&C 28 are the revelations and commandments the Lord gave to Joseph Smith. They are not "dark speeches" but are perfectly clear speech from God to man.

Now if we look at verse 2 of D&C 28

D&C 28:2 But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.

The reason, as given in this verse, that no one else is going to receive commandments and revelations in this church is that Joseph Smith recieveth them even as Moses. He is that good. He gives revelation that is perfect as god is perfect because it is revealed by God to man as if the Lord himself was speaking. Otherwise Joseph Smith could not have said: I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.

In verse 3 Oliver is told to obey and faithfully declare the revelations and commandments Joseph Smith had recieved. We then read

4 And if thou are let at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.
5 But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom.

Oliver is told that whatever he is told by the holy ghost to speak or teach, even by way of commandment, he may do it. But he is not to write commandments to the church, but only by wisdom. Apparently, while he is commanded himself to teach those revelations and commandments the Lord has given, he cannot write a new commandment. Though apparently he can give one as moved by the Holy Ghost while speaking or teaching.

I have no idea why the Lord makes that distinction between speaking. teaching, and writing when speaking to Oliver in vs 4-5.

And then we read

D&C 28:7 For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint them another in his stead.

Certainly Joseph Smith had keys to unlock the mysteries himself. In particular, he had the Urim and Thummim. He had also spoken to God in person.

But the keys referred to here are keys that can be appointed to another person in Joseph Smith's place. The interesting question about them is whether they are keys to unlock for oneself, or keys to unlock for others. Are the keys referred to here keys to open to others, or are they keys to open to oneself?

The Lord does not appear to limit anybody's personal revelation, and therefore it seems more likely, but by no means definitive to me at this point, that the Lord is saying Joseph Smith has the keys to open the mysteries to others, and the keys to open to others the revelations which are sealed. Whether these keys are simply divine approval to open usch things without incuring God's displeasure, or whether they are keys that allow one to open such things to himself is not clear here. It does bring to mind a quotation from Joseph Smith. Of course, saying what is "more likely" bears no real weight. We need insight through the Holy Ghost.

Remarking on the death of James Adams, Joseph Smith recounted "I anointed him to the patriarchal power--to receive the keys of knowledge and power, by revelation to himself. He has had revelations concerning his departure, and has gone to a more important work. When men are prepared, they are better off to go hence."

The reasoning in these verses is interesting:

D&C 28:6 And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church.
7 For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.

The Lord says "thou shalt not command him who is at thy head and at the head of the church." Why not? Because the Lord had given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations.

Put differently, I think this is what it means to be put at the head of the church. It means that the man has the keys of the mysteries and the revelations.


The section later discusses Hirum Page. It says that the revelations Hirum Page receives "from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him; For behold these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall any thing be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants. For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith."

Here we learn that for Hirum Page to be acting as a revelator contrary to proper order and contrary to common consent was a violation of the church covenants. The point here seems to be that the "church covenants" includes that God will call his revelators by the order he has laid out by common consent by the prayer of faith.

So here is some basic scripture about keys that we can begin to tie down as set in stone like the stone of the 10 commandments, just as surely as if the Lord had written in stone by his own finger.

Joseph Smith had the keys to unlock the mysteries, and to unlock the revelations which are sealed, until another would be appointed in Joseph Smith's stead. Consequently Oliver could speak, and teach, but not write, new commandments to the church. And Oliver could teach anything the Holy Ghost prompted him to concerning the existing revelations and commandments.

Also none would be appointed (which refers to the person "appointed in his [Joseph Smith's] stead") to hold the keys of the mysteries and the revelations which are sealed except it be done in the proper order and by common consent and by the prayer of faith.

In fact, a more general statement is made. The scripture said "neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants. For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith." Thus part of the covenant of the church, meaning the way the Lord has set his church up, is nothing will be appointed to any of this church except it be done in proper order, and by common consent, and by the prayer of faith.









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