“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” -Joel 2:28
We, as Latter Day Saints, claim to be living in the last days. When we look at the life of Joseph Smith Jr., his visions and revelations, it does appear to be the case. Before, during, and after the translation of the Book of Mormon he received numerous dreams, visions, and revelations. And it wasn’t only him. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and other also received dreams, visions, and revelations. Truly the Spirit of God was poured out, and Joel’s prophecy was coming true! (See Joel 2:28)
But looking at the sects that came from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that broke apart in 1844, when the men that God had called as leaders all refused to work as one. Where did these spiritual gifts go? Rather than relying on God, too many of these men took the revelations they had been given, whether from man or God directly, and applied them in ways only beneficial to them. Perhaps a better reading of Moroni’s introduction to the Book of Mormon can help us understand why we lost these gifts.
The Spirit of Prophesy and Revelation
The first paragraph of the Title Page of the Book of Mormon tells us it is:
- an abridgment of the Record of the People of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites
- written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile
- written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophesy and of Revelation
- written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed
- to come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof
- sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile
- the interpretation thereof by the gift of God
- an abridgment taken from the Book of Ether
You will notice that I have highlighted a few things, that the Book of Mormon was written, translated, and can only be understood by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. What does this mean? It means that it could only come forth in the last days. In the last days there are or will be people, young and old, with the spirit of prophecy and revelation that can read, understand, and apply this book. The invitation to read the Book of Mormon is an invitation to receive the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Without these gifts, the book is worthless. It’s just a book.
Convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ
While many denominations attempt to use the Book of Mormon to convert people to their churches, this is it not the point or purpose of the Book of Mormon. Looking at the second paragraph we see that the Book of Mormon is given to us:
- to shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers
- that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever
- to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations
These are key doctrines! Evidence of what God has done for our ancestors. Teaching us the covenants they made, and that we should make, with God. Letting us know that there is hope for all. And, most importantly, to give people, through the spirit of prophecy and revelation, a knowledge that Jesus is the Christ. No where does it say anything about Joseph Smith Jr. Nowhere does it say anything about joining some mystical “one true church.” Everything is about our personal relationship with God.
The Mistake of Men
Understanding this, does this mean we should be warring against the saints that are building up churches? No. In Mark 9:38-40 we read:
“And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me; for he that is not against us is on our part.”
And God has told us:
“Go forth and contend with one another no longer, but unite in my name; cease to find fault, but build upon that which ye love” -Doctrines of the Saints 2g:41
“Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil” -Doctrines of the Saints12a:35
“Let him that partaketh and him that refraineth cease to contend with his brother, that each may be benefited when he eateth at the table of the Lord.” -Doctrines of the Saints 15c:19
“But verily I say unto you: that I the Lord will contend with Zion, and plead with her strong ones, and chasten her, until she overcome and are clean before me: for she shall not be moved out of her place: I the Lord have spoken it. Amen.” -Doctrines of the Saints 55:13
“And while they contend one with another, they will not receive my Word, nor receive wisdom from me.” -Doctrines of the Saints 83a:34
“Ye shall strengthen the weak; for with kindness and much charity will I give you to prevail, and ye shall save them, and ye shall not contend against one another.” -Doctrines of the Saints 89:60
Therefore, we should follow that spirit of prophecy and revelation we are given from God and seek our own revelations. If we are to join or build churches, we shall do so, one by one, even as the Lord directs us, out of love and not in the spirit of contention. And in this, we will be blessed.