Come Follow Me with Casey Paul Griffiths (Doctrine and Covenants 63, June 7-13) – powered by Happy Scribe
Somewhere in the land of Israel, there’s a mountain, we don’t know exactly which mountain it is, and there’s all kinds of theories and speculations about which one it might be. But this is Mount Hebron, which is the most likely spot where something happened called the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration was an event that’s discussed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, where Peter, James and John were selected to go to the top of the mountain alone with Jesus.
When they arrived there, the savior suddenly became a bright, resplendent, illuminating being. He was transfigured and Peter, James and John saw him meet with two other people, Moses and Elijah. The Joseph Smith translation adds, The John the Baptist was also present there. There’s not a lot of information about what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration because it’s discussed so quickly. But we believe that certain priest had keys and authorities were given to Peter, James and John.
They also heard the voice of God, the father bearing witness that Jesus Christ was the savior. Now, what does this have to do with the doctrine and covenants? Surprisingly, a lot of the information that we have about what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration isn’t in the New Testament. It’s in section sixty three of the doctrine and covenants. The Lord there explains that when the apostles were on the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, they were shown the Earth when it shall be transfigured according to the pattern which was shown in the divine apostles in the mount of which it fulness you have not yet received.
So not only did these apostles receive priesthood keys, but they also saw in vision what the earth would one day become. They saw not just a person transfigured, but a vision of the whole world transfigured and turned into a higher state. Now, what does this have to do with Joseph Smith? This is a revelation that he receives after he arrives back from his journey to Missouri, coming back to Kirtland. He had noticed that there were problems that had occurred in the church and there had been disharmony and contention on the journey home.
The church historian John Wittmer noted that the elders had returned to their homes in Ohio and the churches needed much exhortation in the absence of the elders many apostates. Joseph Smith himself noted that in the infant days of the church, there was a great anxiety to obtain the word of the Lord on every subject and that in any way concerned our salvation. And as the Land of Zion was now the most important temple object in their view. I inquired of the Lord and gained further information on the gathering of the Saints upon the purchase of the land and other matters, and received the following.
Now, transfiguration, which is mentioned in the middle, then becomes a grand theme of this entire revelation. Remember, the Lord is telling them about the Land of Zion and what it means to gather. But he’s also worried about those saints that aren’t living in Zion and aren’t living the gospel. So in this revelation, the Lord rebuked several people. We’ll call them those that won’t be transfigured and lists of several groups that will struggle to be transfigured when the great day comes.
The first group are science seekers. The savior says behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs. Follow those the belief he wasn’t pleased with those that constantly needed signs to know that the gospel was true. And in this case, he may have been speaking to some very specific people. There was a man traveling with Joseph Smith back from Missouri that it caused a lot of contention on the journey named Esther Buth, who had caused a lot of the contention on the journey back from Missouri, was converted through a sign specifically he saw Joseph Smith heal the arm of Elsie Johnson.
And this revelation may have as much as anything been addressing him. Specifically, the Lord also mentions people that are adulterers and adulteresses and those who have turned away from others. And that remained with you here. After that shall be revealed. The Lord isn’t pleased with those that don’t keep their covenants or aren’t faithful to the people around them. And weirdly enough, in the Scriptures, both Jesus and Joseph Smith draw a connection between people that seek signs and people that are adulterers.
Later on in his life, when Joseph Smith was preaching to a group of people in Philadelphia, he noted that he was preaching when a Quaker called for a sign. I told them to be still. After a sermon, he again called for a sign. I told the congregation the man was an adulterer, that a wicked, an adulterous generation after a sin. And the Lord had said it to me in a revelation that any man who wanted to sign was an adulterous person.
It is true, cried one man, for I caught it in the very act which the man afterwards confessed when he was baptized. Now, the third sin that the Lord addresses in this revelation is the desire to obtain things through violence or bloodshed. It appears that there were some saints that felt like with the power of God, they could go in and destroy the people that were already living in the Land of Zion, which was Independence, Missouri. The Lord warned them specifically, Satan put it into your hearts to anger against you and to the shedding of blood.
Wherefore for the Land of Zion shall not be obtained by purchase or by blood. Otherwise, there’s no inheritance for you. He didn’t want them to obtain the land violently, he wanted them to obtain the land peacefully. So sign seeking adultery and violence were three things that could keep a person from being transfigured. But a major theme of the revelation is what it takes to become transfigured. The Lord gives several key things that a person can do, he says in verse 20.
Nevertheless, he that endurance and faith and do with my will the same shall overcome and shall receive an inheritance upon this Earth when the day of transfiguration shall come. What’s going to happen in the day of Transfiguration? The Lord gives a number of blessings that are associated with this, that the old will live until an old age and then be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Or that the young will never know death. That the world that we live in with all its wonder and splendor and beauty will be changed to be something even more beautiful and even more wonderful than the things that we see all around us right now.
It’s not just that the savior can be transfigured. The savior always offers to us the same blessings that the father is given to him. And one day, if we’re faithful, if we stay on the path and we avoid those sins of the Lord outlines here, we can live in a transfigured earth and be transfigured ourselves. It’s possible for us to transcend the world around us and the petty angrist jealousies, problems and sins that we sometimes wallow in to look to a higher place, to travel up onto the mountain, figuratively speaking.
And just like Peter, James and John not only see the Lord transfigured, but be transfigured ourselves.