Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Sons of Levi

185 Years ago today, the Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the Earth as the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery prayed to understand the process of baptism. The Lord sent John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus Christ, out of heaven to confer the authority upon these two disciples of Jesus Christ. As recorded in Doctrine & Covenants 13, he laid his hands upon their heads, and said, "Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness."

This promise of the authority held by the lesser priesthood is amazing, but very few people understand what it means by "until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness". Who are the sons of Levi and what is the offering that they will offer to the Lord?

Levi was one of the sons of Jacob (renamed Israel). His children were of his tribe. In the Exodus from Egypt, the children of Israel began breaking the commandments and worshiping a golden calf. The situation was recorded (Exodus 32:26-29):
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
 This set the tribe of Levi apart from all other tribes. While the other tribes were eating, drinking, and making merry, the Levites stood for the God of Israel, and obeyed the prophet with exactness. Once this was done, the Lord gave a new covenant with Israel without the higher priesthood being in their midst. It established Aaron and his sons as priests, "And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations" (Exodus 40:13-15). And also, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him" (Numbers 3:5-6).

This everlasting priesthood was given to the tribe of Levi to officiate in the ordinances of the tabernacle, and later, of the Temple. The Book of Leviticus goes into great detail of how the Levitical ordinances of the temple were to be done.

With the death of Jesus Christ, the Law of Moses was fulfilled. The Savior taught, "For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me" (3 Nephi 15:8). The higher ordinances, then, became the only ordinances needed in the Temple, but the covenant had not been fulfilled. What covenant? The Abrahamic Covenant.

The covenant which Christ had made unto His people, as Jehovah was:
"My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations; And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father; And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal" (Abraham 2:8-11).
Besides the land and the nations promised to Abraham, the promises are: number one, Abraham's children would have the Gospel and the Priesthood to bear to all nations; number two, those who receive the gospel will have Abraham as their father forever; and number three, all the families of the earth will be blessed with eternal life through the seed of Abraham.

While a full book could be written on the Abrahamic Covenant, I will be focusing on how Abraham's children would have the Priesthood forever. This covenant was not to be fulfilled until the Latter-days! Prophets, priests, and kings have looked down through the corridors of time to our day: we are the blessed recipients of this great and grand crown of the ages. We do not understand our duty though. 

We live in a day of The Hastening of the Work of Salvation! In the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 76, there is a scripture that should be etched upon our hearts, "Behold, I will hasten my work in its time." Often we think of this hastening of the work as missionary work, but that's only part of the hastening. On April 13, 2014, I attended a devotional for the Temple Workers of the Logan Temple. Elder Ronald A Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy was there, and he said, "The Hastening of the Work is happening on BOTH sides of the veil." Thus, the work of the Temple must also be hastening!

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood is another main focus of the latter-day work, and of its hastening! 
"Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed—And the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church. For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:31-34).
When we have the priesthoods, we are the sons of Moses and of Aaron. Whose sons were they? In Exodus 2:1, we read of Moses's parents: "And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi." Aaron was Moses's older brother, so they were both Levites as was determined before. Thus, when we become their sons, we become the sons of Levi. It allows us to officiate in the ordinances of the Temple.

Okay, so we are the sons (and daughters) of Levi as we officiate in the ordinances of the Temple. What is the offering that we must offer the Lord in righteousness? We obviously are not performing animal sacrifices anymore. Joseph Smith explained the revelation he'd received from the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 128:24:
Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.
So what is the offering unto the Lord that must be performed? We must go into the House of the Lord with names of our ancestors to redeem them from their prison. Then all the names of the redeemed shall be compiled via FamilySearch, and that book will be yielded to the Lord when He comes in the clouds of glory!

"Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:3). 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Walking through the Fires of Affliction

Neal A Maxwell once said, "The thermostat on the furnace of affliction will not have been set too high for us - though clearly we may think so at the time. Our God is a refining God who has been tempering soul-steel for a very long time. He knows when the right edge has been put up on our excellence and also when there is more in us than we have yet given. One day we will praise God for taking us near to our limits - as He did His Only Begotten in Gethsemane and Calvary." ("All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience")

Often we feel that the trials we face in this life are not fair, nor are they bearable for us. Nothing can be further from the truth than the latter portion, and nothing can be closer to it than the former portion. The trials of this life were never meant to be easy, nor were they meant to be fair in our eyes.

They are fair in the sense that both Cain and Abel have trials, both King David and Lazarus have trials, both Joseph of Egypt and Ahaz have trials, and both Laman and Nephi have trials. There is often more equality in the trials than we'd think, however. In the premortal life, we signed up for the trials we would face, because we had been taught the things that we needed to learn to become like our Father, and how we would need to learn them.

We all were at different points in our progression; we were all of different refinement levels of our soul-steel. The flames must be hot enough, and the right type of flames, to purify and refine the crude iron out of us. If the fire is not hot enough, we will never become the manner of men and women we'd ought to be. The bar has been set high by the Son of the Living God: Jesus Christ. None of us will ever measure up to His stature in this life. We do not have the capacity to endure all that He did.

We can, however, emulate His example. When we are in our own Gethsemanes and on our own Golgothas, can we reach out to others selflessly? Can we bless others in the midst of our own storms? Such is the majesty of the Son of Man. On the cross, Christ did not think of the pain of the nails nor the blood from the thorns, rather He thought of His mother. When knelt in the agony of Gethsemane, He did not shrink, but He atoned for each one of us the way He did all his other work: one by one.

He did not slack; He did not skip a person: not even Judas, who He knew would betray Him in just a few hours. He went one by one in a way unknown to us, and took our place in the punishment required by the Law of Justice, so that He could extend to us His Mercy. He cut no corners, even when the going got tough; He lived the Gospel right until the end. "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost" (Matt 27:54 JST). He kept His life force going, which He alone had power to do, until the will of the Father had been fulfilled. 

We will not have to walk alone because He walked with us. We can rely on His infinite strength for our finite problems. We may be pushed to our limits, but we will never be pushed to His limits!