What Is Section 132 Really About?

Not marriage. Not really. A question about marriage is the impetus for the revelation, and information about it is given at a few points, but that information is always incidental, and given to illustrate points about the revelation’s larger theme.

Consider that section 132 is the last revelation Joseph Smith received that’s included in the Doctrine and Covenants. What might be the most important message of that book overall for the Saints in this dispensation? It’s one that is indeed extremely important and relevant for us this very day.

 

WORD COUNTS

In 66 verses, the word “marriage” is only used two times. Other marriage-related terms occur not much more often: “marry” and “sealed” occur six times each, “concubines” and “wives,” four times each. The most commonly used marriage-related terms are “wife” and “adultery,” which occur ten times each; and “adultery” is always mentioned in material that’s meant to ensure that that sin is not committed.

Contrast that with the frequency of these other significant terms:

  • Commanded, commandment, priesthood – 7 times each
  • According, appointed, received—9 times each
  • Exaltation, receive—11 times each
  • Abide—12 times
  • Power, word—13 times each
  • Covenant—15 times
  • Servant—16 times

And perhaps the most important term of all, as suggested by frequency of use:

  • Law—32 times

 

132

A word cloud of terms in Doctrine and Covenants section 132

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Escape to the Mountain: Genesis 19 as a Timely Reminder for Latter-day Saints

Genesis 19 is one of the most sordid, controversial chapters of the Bible. As such, it’s not often seen as a fount of wisdom.

Yet, a perfectly timely spiritual message is in this narrative.

Before “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire,” an angel warned Lot to take his family and “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17)

Was Lot’s response to act like Peter and Andrew, who, upon being called to the ministry, “straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:20)? Or like Alma, who was abused and rejected as a minister in one city, but after leaving was instructed by an angel to go back and persist, so “he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:18)?

No. Lot’s immediate instinct wasn’t obedience, but quibbling and negotiation: “And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord…. I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (19:21-22).

Not only did he decline to follow the angel’s clear counsel, he proposed following his own inclinations: “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” (19:20)

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The Relationship Between Discipleship and Love

I’m not a people person by nature.  I can enjoy company, but I don’t often seek it out.  Usually, I try to avoid it, though I’ve been working on this.

Yesterday I re-read something that had jumped out at me when I read it earlier this year.  Actually, I’d read this many times before, but it was upon this reading that something new struck me.  Such is the experience of those who study the Book of Mormon.

I’d often wondered how to increase my capacity for charity–the inherent desire to know people, to love them, to want to help them.  I’ve prayed for growth in this capacity, but I still have a long way to go.

But then I read these verses:

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Lehi, King Benjamin, and President Monson On Why We Follow the Prophet

It happened again last night, and not for the first time: I re-read a familiar section in the Book of Mormon and noticed something that had never arrested my attention before.

In King Benjamin’s classic speech, a major landmark in the Book of Mormon, he tells the people this about the the coming change of leadership from himself to his son:

…if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land…  (Mosiah 2:31, emphasis added)

Benjamin wasn’t the only Book of Mormon leader to teach about the reason for faithfully following the prophet; Lehi explained it twice:

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. (1 Nephi 3:5, emphasis added)

And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it. (2 Nephi 1:27, emphasis added)

Nephi’s brothers, you may remember, resented being ordered around, against their natural inclinations, by a bunch of old white men in Salt Lake City…oops, I mean, by their younger brother.  (/sarcasm)

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Serve From Gratitude

Near the end of a truly rousing, inspirational sermon, the Biblical prophet Samuel tells his congregation:

Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  1 Samuel 12:24

This has now become one of my favorite scriptures.  Why?  because it explicitly links our faithful obedience to God and our work in His service, to gratitude for all of the infinite blessings that have first been poured out on us.

I actually think that the “thankfulness-leads-to-devotion” relationship is pretty rarely articulated in the scriptures.  The next best one that I can think of comes from the New Testament:

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

It’s good to be reminded of this.  God has shown us great love, and always will.  Obedient discipleship is the least we can do in return; indeed, is precisely the one thing that He does ask of us:

And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

It’s Time For Politically Conservative Mormons To Follow Their Church On Illegal Immigration

I’ve written about this once in each of the last three years (here, here, and here), and as the Church’s position keeps getting clearer, the reactions of many of my fellow political conservatives keeps getting more hostile.  A posting on the Church’s official web site last week makes it clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors some kind of amnesty–including guest worker programs, at the very least–for illegal aliens. 

Conservatives in general may blanche at this, and they’re welcome to–their suspicions about the Church’s motives in this don’t hold water, anyway.  (Pandering to Hispanic populations?  If the Church wanted to pander to politically sensitive groups, we wouldn’t have recently offended everyone who supports gay marriage.  Between that issue and this one, now we’ve alienated everybody!)

But for those of us who accept the divinity of the LDS Church’s claims and the authority of its leadership, there should be no argument.  In too many comments on other blogs and quotes in other news articles, conservatives are bristling about this to the point of rebellion.  Continue reading

Jesus the Obedient Rebel

One day in high school, as a friend and I were being driven home by his mom, he and I started talking about what a rebel Jesus was.  Adolescent poseurs that we were, this was the highest compliment we could pay, and was certainly meant as such.  It was our juvenile effort at praise.  What we had in mind, of course, was that Jesus defied the authorities and conventions of the time.  This fit in very comfortably with our worldview, so we respected it.

My friend’s mom, though, then opined that Jesus was more of a conformist than a rebel, emphasizing that Jesus repeatedly explained that He was doing everything He did to be in strict obedience to the will of the Father.  We quickly countered that, while she had a point, we felt that He was more of a rebel than a  conformist, mostly because we didn’t want to be wrong. 

We were each right, of course, in a way.  The biggest thing that my teenage friend and I had to realize was that neither conformity nor rebellion are automatically goods in themselves.  Whichever is appropriate regarding a situation depends on the nature of that situation.  As much as our society so uncritically lauds rejection of anything mainstream (so much so that this attitude has itself long since become the mainstream), I think we’d all admit that when it comes to some things–for example, brushing our teeth–it’s actually not so desirable to be a rebel.  No, sir; when it comes to oral hygiene, I say let’s all get on board the bandwagon and drink the kool aid (metaphorically, as it were, since, you know, dental health and sugary drinks don’t really go together…*ahem*).

Followers of Christ often speak of having to live in the world but not of the world, of giving unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.  Since so much of life comes down to acting on a case by case basis, we can only truly rely on solid principles that we understand and covenant to adhere to ahead of time, at all times. 

In this, as in all things, Jesus is our perfect exemplar.  When faced with instances of others being unjustly persecuted, ignored, taunted, abused, or taken advantage of, we must act in direct contradiction to the prevailing opinions.  Regardless the norms or polls involved, we must heed the life of our Master as the pole star to guide us in thriving within unholy environments, showing mercy and tolerance, but refusing to condone or participate in wickedness, interacting with the world as the Spirit dictates. 

And as our elder brother has shown, the ultimate principle to organize our lives is that, in all things, all places, all times, we must strive to bring ourselves into agreement with the will of our Father in Heaven.  Then, and only then, will our choices to submit to some things and rebel against others be in proper balance.

Book of Moses Commentary Part III: The Mahan Principle Extended

When I taught a lesson to the youth in our church last year about the Word of Wisdom, I asked them why we don’t drink or smoke.  “Because it’s unhealthy,” they droned, parroting the expected answer by rote. 

“Nope,” I said.  “That has nothing to do with it.  Let me ask you this: is drinking alcohol, for example, a terrible thing that immediately brings misery?”  “Yes,” they replied, this time sounding pleased to be giving back the obviously righteous response. 

“Not likely,” I answered.  “I don’t know know for myself, but I imagine that getting drunk must be a lot of fun, since millions of people volunteer to do it in their spare time.  So why don’t we drink alcohol, then?”

At this point, perceptive people will chime in with something like, “Because the Lord said not to.” 

“Exactly,” I say.  “That’s the difference between whether or not something is a sin.” 

I approach subjects this way because I worry that when we demonize everything that we want people to avoid, we give those things a power that they don’t deserve; we glamorize them and set them up as the standard objects of indulgence when rebellion will rear its ugly head.  A little more honesty strips them of that power. 

I’m reminded of some people I’ve known who might fit this cautionary pattern: the high school-age boy who suddenly stopped being a role model of righteousness because he tried and suddenly realized the pleasure of popular sins (“Hey guys,” a typical discussion around that period might go, “our leaders were totally wrong about how awful sin is; it rocks!”), or the girl described as the “sweet spirit” of the singles ward who got tired of being passed over and changed her wardrobe and standards; as soon as she started sleeping with guys–surprise!–she had a serious boyfriend within a month. 

The phrase “Mahan principle” was coined by Hugh Nibley to denote the discovery made by Cain in Moses 5:31 (“I may murder and get gain.”).  Continue reading

Book of Moses Commentary Part II: The First Two Laws

As soon as Adam and Eve had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, Moses 5:1-4 tells us, they set about the work of providing for their temporal needs according to the order given by God, started raising a family, and called on God. 

Verse 5 says that God responded to their prayers by giving them commandments, to which the text explicitly goes out of its way to inform us that Adam was obedient

Immediately after stressing Adam’s obedience to the commandments (presumably, yes, all of them), verse 6 begins the well known story of Adam being visited by an angel who teaches Adam the meaning of his ritual sacrifices.

I find it intriguing that the Book of Moses mentions that very early after the Fall, Adam is described as learning obedience, quickly followed by learning sacrifice.  Note that the footnotes to verse 5 direct us to the Topical Guide entry for “obedience,” and the footnotes for verse 6 lead to the entry for “sacrifice.”