Come Follow Me with Casey Paul Griffiths (Doctrine and Covenants 133-134, November 15-21) – powered by Happy Scribe
Almost no person who believes in the gospel. Jesus Christ hasn’t spent some time wondering about the end of the world or the signs that lead up to the end of the world. And that’s specifically why section 134 is placed into the Doctrine Covenants. A lot of people have questions about out the end of the world and that we shouldn’t get too obsessed with the end of the world. It’s important that we do know a little bit about it.
A few years ago, in General Conference, a General authority, Sterling W. Sil pointed out how often in the scriptures the Second Coming is referred to. Elder SIL said, there are many important gospel doctrines mentioned in the Bible only briefly and some not at all. The New Birth is mentioned in the Bible nine times. Baptism is mentioned 52 times, repentance is mentioned 89, but the Second Coming of Christ is mentioned over 1500 times in the Old Testament and 300 times in the New Testament.
If God thought this subject that important, he must have wanted us to do something about it. Now. Section 133 of the Doctrine Covenants was given specifically to help us have information about the signs leading up to the Second Coming. You might have noticed if you looked in the section heading that this section is received way earlier than the sections that come just before it. In fact, section 133 was received around the same time that Section One of the Doctrine Covenants was received.
Section One was intended to be the introduction to the Doctrine Covenants. Section 133 was intended to be the appendix to the Doctrine Covenants. Sometimes when you’re writing a really important book, you put in an appendix to help everybody keep the facts straight. These appendices are intended to help us understand the subject, but they might not fit into the flow of the subject itself. Section 133 Unsurprisingly contained a lot of answers about a question that really really bothered the Saints, which was one of the signs leading up to the time of the Second Coming, and all of us wants to know about the Second Coming, but there’s different approaches to understanding it as well.
For instance, if we broaden our understanding to all the Christian churches out there when it comes to the end of the world and the Millennium of peace that’s prophesied of in the Scriptures, there are three different approaches. This is roughly called millennialism and Christian discourse, and here’s the three schools of thought. Number one is premillennialism. Premillennialism is the idea that the world would just get worse and worse until Christ comes and initiates an era of peace and righteousness. The second school of thought is called amillennialism.
Amillennialism is the idea that the Millennium and the Saviors return are figurative concepts that the real peace comes when a person accepts Jesus Christ into their heart, and the final school of thought is called post millennialism. Post millennialism is the idea that mankind will get better and better and improve until it creates an era of peace and righteousness. And then the Savior will return. Each one of these schools of thoughts has virtue to them. The question is, which one do Latter day Saints fit best into?
Is it premiere and is the idea that things are going to get worse? The Savior comes and fixes our problems? Is it a millennialism that the second Coming is figurative and that it happens in our hearts? Or is it post millennialism that we’re going to build the perfect society? And then the Savior will join us?
Well, let’s walk through section 133 and you can see which one we clearly favor. For instance, let’s go to verses two and three. It reads, The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple, the Lord who shall come down upon the world with accursed to judgment upon all the nations that forget God, and upon all the ungodly among you, he shall make bear his Holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the Earth shall see the Salvation of their God. If you said, pre millennial, that is a clearly pre millennial passage, isn’t it that things do get bad and the Savior does come and he ends the wickedness by initiating an error of peace that’s very pre millennial.
And we align well with that philosophy.
However, it gets more complicated. As you read through this document, for instance, go to verses eight and nine, verses eight and nine of section 133. Read, send forth the elders of my Church, under the nations which are far off under the Islands of the sea. Send forth unto foreign lands, call upon all nations first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews, and behold them low. This shall be their cry in the voice of the Lord.
Unto all people go, you force onto the land of Zion that the borders of my people may be enlarged and the stakes may be strengthened and that Zion may go forth into the region’s roundabout. Now, if you were reading that, it sounds very post millennial, doesn’t it? That we’re going to send forth missionaries to approve the nations, to make things better and enlarge the borders of Zion so that we have a safe space in the midst of all this craziness. The Saints build this perfect society. Then the Savior comes as a very post millennial idea.
And in some ways it fixes some of the problems with premillennialism, because sometimes if people take premillennialism too far, they just sit and wait for the Savior to come and solve the problems. The doctrine covenants doesn’t ask us to just sit around and wait for the Rapture to come. It asks us to be involved, to get in there, to build the city of Zion in any way and in any shape that we can. And then when we’ve built it, the Savior will come back. So we’re a little pre millennial and a little post millennial.
Now, the one philosophy that most of you probably rejected was a millennial, and we definitely don’t believe that the second coming of the Millennium are entirely figurative. But the idea that the Millennium happens in your heart is something we can get on board with. Take a look at verses 52 and 53 of the Doctrine Covenants, which read and now the year of my Redeemed has come and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, according to his loving kindness for ever and ever and all their afflictions.
He was afflicted and the angel of his presence saved them, and in his love and in his pity he redeemed them and bore them and carried them all the days of old. Now these are things that people are supposed to say according to the section after the Savior returns to Earth.
But you might have noticed that they’re talking about them like they’ve already happened. It’s not that the Savior came to Earth and that’s what saved them. They were saved before he came back. They were carried, they were redeemed and they were born by the Savior in all the trials that they had before he returned to Earth. And in that sense, we are a little a millennial.
We definitely don’t think that the second coming of the Millennium are just symbolic, figurative concepts. But the idea that you can experience the Millennium and the peace that people will join the Millennium right now in your heart is something that resonates with us. So which one army? We’re kind of a little bit of everything. We believe that the Savior is going to come and solve most of the world’s problems.
But we also believe that we need to be in the fight trying to fix the problems ourselves until he comes. We also believe that we can find peace in our hearts right now if we embrace the tenets and teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now on to section 134. Section 134, you might have noticed is very different as well. Section 134 isn’t a revelation.
It’s a declaration sustained by the leaders of the Church, but not given specifically through the voice of God. This declaration was written, we think, by Oliver Calgary with assistance from WWF. Oliver Cavalry wrote this as part of the Doctrine Covenants in order to explain what the Church’s position was on government and government. Specifically, Joseph Smith wasn’t present when section 134 was given, but he did endorse it. Joseph Smith was part of the committee that put together the Doctrine Covenants, and he allowed this to be included, so he must have been okay with it.
There was even an instance when Joseph Smith was asked about his position on governments, and he basically sent a letter that included the text of section 134, but he changed. We believe that, I believe and specifically endorsed himself. So Joseph Smith might not have written this or received it by the voice of God, but he was okay with the principles found within it. That’s why every Prophet is allowed to stay in the doctrine covenants, and it’s there as part of the doctrine covenants today. Now, what does it say about governments?
Well, it not just talks about governments. It talks about religions, too. Talks about good religions and bad religions and good government and bad government. It talks specifically about how religions should teach morality, but can’t force people to do certain things. And it talks about how governments should encourage morality and also punish wickedness, but not force people to believe certain ways.
Joseph Smith and the other early leaders of the Church believed very strongly that religious freedom was important to a healthy society, that in a society where everybody could be happiest, they would be allowed to believe what they believe. Joseph, throughout his life thought religious Liberty was very important, especially after the Saints had their religious Liberty trampled in places like Missouri and Illinois. In a sermon Joseph Smith gave a Navy Illinois in 1044, Joseph Smith said the following, God cannot save or damn a man only on the principle that every man acts, chooses, and worships for himself.
Hence the importance of thrusting from us every spirit of bigotry and intolerance towards a man’s religious sentiments. That spirit which has drenched the Earth with blood.
When a man feels the least temptation to such intolerance, he ought to spurn it from him. Joseph Smith felt that a person shouldn’t be forced to believe anything, that they should be tenderly taught and encouraged to believe things, and that a person’s beliefs, as long as they didn’t harm anybody else, should be protected. In another sermon Joseph gave during this time, he said, the principles of intolerance and bigotry never had a place in this Kingdom, nor in my breast, and that I am ready even to die rather than to yield to such things.
Nothing can reclaim the human mind from its ignorance. Bigotry superstition, but those grand and sublime principles of equal rights and universal freedom to all men.
Joseph Smith believed that everybody had the right to choose for themselves, how they were going to believe. If their beliefs didn’t harm anyone else, then they had the right to believe what they believed. And it’s easy to imagine the Savior coming back to Earth, and they’re still being different religions because we’re not going to force people to believe. We’re just going to teach them correct principles and hope that they’ll join on their own. On another occasion, Joseph Smith said, hence, in all governments or political transactions, a man’s religious opinion should never be called into question.
A man should be judged by law, independent of religious practice. In other words, Joseph Smith believed it was really, really important for people to know for themselves what was right and what was wrong and then make their own decisions. So let’s put these two sections together. One talks about the second coming, and one talks about what good government is. And after the second coming, we’re going to have the best government imaginable a Kingdom led by a righteous, perfect King that perfectly knows and understands all of us.
When the Savior comes back to Earth, will there still be other religions? I’m guessing there will be. Nobody is going to be forced to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Even if they live in the Kingdom of God, everybody will be taught the gospel. And we’re hoping sincerely that most people will choose and accept to follow the tenets of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But they can’t be forced to do so. Agency is a sacred principle in religion and the government. A person has to have their agency and their freedom upheld and protected. It’s important that when we share our opinions and our beliefs with others, we’re careful and thoughtful about what they believe and how they believe and that we all do the best we can to work together towards the common good.