14: "I Am He Who Liveth, I Am He Who Was Slain" (Easter)
Have you ever heard of the Lectures on Faith? Maybe you’ve read them a million times, maybe you remember a vague reference to them in seminary, or maybe you’ve never heard of them at all. If you fall into any of those categories, this week's episode is for you. Because what better way to celebrate Christ’s life and Resurrection this Easter week than to study the attributes and characteristics of Deity? So make sure to grab some paper and a pen as we study the sacred attributes of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as taught in the Lectures on Faith.
The first time I read Lectures on Faith, I was a sophomore in college. It was given as a class assignment so I kind of read it out of obligation. Okay, well, I totally did. And that obligation changed my life. Because up until that point, I had always imagined God as sort of this huge being, like a Macy's Day Parade Float, just kind of floating over the earth, not really connecting with us, but kind of just watching over things, and maybe even waiting to catch us in the act of doing something wrong. And reading Lectures on Faith changed everything for me. Today's episode is going to be so unique. So this is our Easter episode, where we get to dive into something a little different, but still related to Christ and scripture. Last year, we did "Have a Very Merry Easter," which was so fun because we studied the Marys in the life of Jesus. In this Easter episode, we're going to study Lectures on Faith. So hopefully you have a copy so you can study along with us. But if not, listening totally works, too. And if you're wondering, but it's Easter! Why are we studying Lectures on Faith? Well, there is a very specific reason. And this book is perfect for this time of year and I cannot wait to show you what the reason is. Welcome to the "Sunday on Monday Study Group," a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ Original brought to you by LDS Living, where we take the "Come, Follow Me" lesson for the week and we really dig in the scriptures together. I'm your host, Tammy Uzelac Hall. Now, if you're new to our study group, we want you to make sure that you know how to use this podcast. So go and follow the link in our description and it's going to explain how you can best use this podcast to enhance your "Come, Follow Me" study. Just like my friends Melanie and her son Aiden, who study this podcast together and I think it's so cool—mother and son. So hi, guys! Now another awesome thing—this is my favorite thing about the study group—is each week we're joined by two of my friends, so it's always going to be a little bit different. Today, I'm so excited to announce my friends. We have Mandy Green and John Hilton. Hi, guys!
Mandy Green 1:49
John Hilton III 1:50
I just have to tell you about these two real quick. So Mandy Green is the host of a podcast called "Reflecting Light" which I highly recommend. It is so good. And I know Mandy because she's my Hebrew teacher. So for four years, she taught me Hebrew, until I moved on. And then we have John Hilton, who is a BYU professor and he is an author of several books, including his most recent called Considering the Cross, which is very good. I loved reading it because it takes the stigma away from the cross, which no one's ever done in our religion, I think. So thank you. Very cool.
John Hilton III 2:21
Thanks, Tammy. So good to be with both of you.
Now, you guys kind of know each other, right?
John Hilton III 2:26
Actually, Mandy, I don't think I've had the pleasure of meeting you before.
Mandy Green 2:28
Well, you have actually. I'm glad I'm so memorable. No, I'm just kidding.
John Hilton III 2:31
Oh no. That's bad for the episode.
Mandy Green 2:31
This is how: Cherry Hill Elementary. Our sons both were in the same classes together.
John Hilton III 2:39
Oh, yes. In elementary school. Who's your son?
Mandy Green 2:42
John Hilton III 2:44
Oh, of course! If I would've known that you're Indiana's mom, that would've made all the difference.
Mandy Green 2:48
Okay. Yeah. He's very cool.
There you go. Here we are, one big happy family.
Mandy Green 2:52
Full circle. We all know each other. I think, John, did we get hired at the same time to teach? Because we taught together in the same district or area, maybe? When were you hired?
John Hilton III 3:02
So I was hired in 2000 for Seminaries and Institutes?
Oh, yeah. Okay. I was in '98. So just a little bit after. That's how I knew you because we taught in Seminaries and Institutes together for a couple years. So that's how I know John.
Mandy Green 3:16
Cool. It's cool.
Yeah, I know. I love it. And now here we are together. So this is gonna be really fun discussion. And for anybody who wants to know more about my guests, you can check out their bios and fun pictures that we always have. You can get to that at LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday. Okay, so here's what I want to know from both of you: your first experience with Lectures on Faith. Go.
John Hilton III 3:36
So my first experience with Lectures on Faith was as a missionary, I don't know if it was just leftover in one of the missionary apartments that I went into, but I got a tiny little paperback version of it. And kind of like what you were saying earlier, Tammy, is I had this experience of really seeing God in a different way. The Lectures on Faith was a very personal book for me, and also powerful as it sort of opened my eyes to the power of faith.
Yeah, absolutely. Did anyone else think that God just kind of floated over the earth? Or is it just me that thought he was like a float?
John Hilton III 4:06
That was a great metaphor. I didn't have the creativity.
What about you, Mandy?
Mandy Green 4:11
I think I could compare faith to the Macy's Day balloon. I perceived faith as a noun. And I was like, I have faith. And Joseph just blows that out. The Lectures on Faith, blow that out and say, "No, it's a verb. Everything it does, everything it inspires." And then I was like, "Wow, do I even have faith? Am I exercising faith?" It was a little deep. I'll admit, like, it was pretty deep for me. But—
How old were you when you ready it?
Mandy Green 4:37
It was the beginning part. I would guess sometime in the early 20s, as well. Is that when we usually confront this?
I love that word.
Mandy Green 4:48
And freak out a little?
Yeah, cuz I was. I was 20 when I read it, for sure. Well, for those of you listening, I don't want you to worry because there is so much in Lectures on Faith. We're not going to firehose you with this. Cuz we could. We could easily do that. But we're just gonna give you sort of like a little sampling, like a nibble. Actually, okay, maybe it's gonna be like a big bite, but we're gonna give you time to chew on it and think about it. So friends, grab your copies of Lectures on Faith, if you have one, and let's dig in. John, I don't know if you had this experience. But when I was first hired at BYU, they took all the new hires, and they put us in a room for an entire day for eight straight hours. And we went through Lectures on Faith. For eight hours with only one break, mind you. I mean, here's my copy that I used, clear back in the year 2000. And it is all marked up. You can see sticky notes, everything like that. So they did this for all new seminary hires. Did you have that same experience, John?
John Hilton III 5:44
No. As you described it, though, I wish I did. It sounds like the School of the Prophets. I can see everyone kind of gathered around. I don't know if people were smoking or spitting tobacco on the floor in the meeting.
[Laughter] We totally were.
John Hilton III 5:54
I mean, that's intense. Wow. Maybe it was too intense so they didn't do it when I—
Oh, yeah. I don't know how many—I think Anthony Sweat was with me in that room. And Barbara Morgan Gardner. Because we all were hired at the same time.
John Hilton III 6:06
And it was funny because they shuffled us off into another room. And part of me was like, "What are you doing? I want to be with all of those— I want to be the other guys!" Like I thought it was so unfair. I remember I'm like, "Hmph. Now we got to just do that stupid book. I've already read it once!" And then I came out of that room eight hours later. And yeah, it was like a School of the Prophets. For all of us little neophytes, newbie seminary teachers who didn't know anything. And I mean, I always joke I didn't even know Christ came to America until I was in the MTC. So for me to go from that to Lectures on Faith was mind blowing. So let's just talk about the why. Why did we choose to talk about Lectures on Faith today? Why is it important for us in 2021?
John Hilton III 6:45
One of the things for me is it's focused on knowing who God is. And for me, that also means knowing who Jesus Christ is. We come to know the Father through the Son. And so over and over again, there's this idea that if we don't know who God is, his attributes, his characteristics, we can't really exercise faith. And over and over again, I feel like we're being asked today by a living prophet to come to know Jesus Christ better and to emphasize him. This maybe gives us one avenue to do that.
Yeah, great answer. Yeah, absolutely.
Mandy Green 7:20
Well, for me, I'm like a really, really firm believer that Joseph Smith spoke with heaven and Joseph Smith combed over these lectures and approved them. And in my estimation, they were canonized in the 1830s. And then a committee in 1921, unilaterally voted to take them out of the Doctrine and Covenants. And to me, they're still in there. I mean, if Joseph Smith was combing over those, and from what I understand they are the doctrine portion of the Doctrine and Covenants and the covenants portion is what we have left. And it's so interesting in preparing for this, that when you look at the covenants, if you don't have a correct understanding of the doctrine, we're doing the same thing Protestants and Catholics are—like other people who are really trying to hit that mark, it's really a lot harder to hit that mark, if we don't have a correct understanding of God's attributes and characteristics, like boom, baby, done. And I'm just like, this is really, really important to us, to reframe it, and to quote the New Testament, you can't put new wine into old bottles. The Lectures on Faith were the new bottles that I believe the Lord provided for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And when we fail to look at them, we're putting the new wine back into the old bottles, which kills the wine, splits the wine, destroys the wine. So, you know, I was trying to be subtle, but I can't! It's all there. There you go.
No, thank you. Alright, so let's go over some of the facts about Lectures on Faith. First of all, it was presented in School of the Elders, not School of the Prophets, which we know originally was for the leaders of the church. And Joseph Smith called them together, and he taught them about everything that they were going to need to know. It was a really cool, intense—kind of like what we talked about, my intense eight-hour day studying Lectures on Faith. But there were two things. There was a School of the Prophets and then a School of the Elders, and they're completely separate. School of the Prophets existed from January to April in 1833. The School of the Elders was from November 1834 to 1835. And I loved learning this because whereas the School of the Prophets was intended primarily for leaders of the Church, the School of the Elders—this is cool—it was open for all potential missionaries. And so thinking that potential missionaries were being taught these Lectures on Faith about God makes me think, "Wow, I want all missionaries to read Lectures on Faith before they go out." Like it is the new wine that they're going to need to present to these people. And when I say new, I mean the—a lot of these men had just barely been baptized. And now we're going to reframe the way that they believe and think about God and Jesus Christ. This is huge. Mandy, you talked about this a little bit. But do either of you know who wrote Lectures on Faith?
Mandy Green 10:14
Well, it was a conglomerate effort. You know, people say, "Well, Sidney Rigdon wrote a lot of them, Joseph wrote some of them..."
In fact, a lot of naysayers will say Sidney just wrote it. And they'll remove Joseph out of the equation, but that's not true.
Mandy Green 10:29
Well, I have here from Joseph Smith's own journal I believe. It says, "During the month of January," and this is in 1835, "I was engaged in the School of the Elders and in preparing the Lectures on Theology for publication in the book of Doctrine and Covenants." That's History of the Church 2, verse 180. And he said that he accepted responsibility for every principle advanced. And so I think it's kind of a moot point on who wrote it. If he's combing through all of it and saying, "I'm going to stamp my approval on all of this," it is going through Him. Who better to go through the doctrine of the Church than Joseph Smith?
I totally agree.
John Hilton III 11:10
Tammy, maybe we can put in the show notes, for those who want to go deeper, there's an article by Larry Dahl, called "The Authorship and History of the Lectures on Faith." So for those who want—I mean, we're kind of skimming over the surface, but there's, you know, a whole host of information. And if you want to dig into the historical sources, that might be a good article to explore further.
John, I'm so glad you brought that up. It is in our show notes. So you can go there. His talk is throughout all of our show notes today, and it is a great article! So thank you for bringing it up. I highly recommend people read that. In fact, John, I love that you just brought that up, because I remember I talked to you, Mandy, like a year ago about Lectures on Faith. And you had said to me, "Nobody understands this, but when it's called the Doctrine and Covenants, Lectures on Faith was the Doctrine, the revelations were the Covenants." And when you told me that I was like, "Huh? I've never heard that." And Larry Dahl actually says that in this article, John. He says that the Lectures on Faith was the Doctrine. The Covenants were the revelations that Joseph Smith received. So it's important for us to know that Lectures on Faith was an absolute canonized part of our scriptures. When you would turn to Doctrine and Covenants, you'd first see Lectures on Faith, and then you'd have all of these really cool revelations. So I love knowing that. That, of course we would study it this year, because it was actually part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
John Hilton III 12:25
One of the things that's kind of cool in the article is that it actually shows an image of a page from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants where it says "Part Second: Covenants and Commandments" and then begins with what we have today, as Section 1. One other thought in this is not, by any means to minimize the Lectures on Faith, I do think it's interesting that it was de-canonized in 1921. And I guess the reason why I think it's interesting is just, we often think about new revelation being added. But this is one of the rare examples of revelation being decanonized. And for me, it just says something about the ongoing restoration, and that we never know like what's going to happen in the future. I've always thought, you know, "Hey, maybe in the future, we're going to get additional books of scripture. But maybe the example with the Lectures on Faith shows that things can also move in and out of canon.
That's a great way, I've never thought of that. In fact, it remained for 80 years, until they took it out. And there's, in our show notes, there's a great article about why it was removed and some opinions and ideas. But, for me, what sunk in is the reason it was removed is that the Doctrine and Covenants is a book of questions and answers, and how the church was going to be organized and rules and you know, God's law, and all of that. And so they felt like, "Let's remove Lectures on Faith, because it's not really answer to questions that Joseph specifically had at the time." Is that right? Did I make, did that make sense?
Mandy Green 13:46
Well, but it raises the question, and I just want to clarify this for myself, how is something de-canonized? "Canon" is such an interesting word anyway—
Plenty of apocrypha that I canon on my own, like, "Come on."
Mandy Green 14:00
Exactly. But I'm just like, is this the only example of de-canonizing something? And how does that happen? Because it's a committee that does it rather than the vote of the church. Just curious there.
John Hilton III 14:15
So I could be wrong. I think within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is the only example of de-canonization. So, kind of like Tammy said with the article in the show notes, there are lots of different opinions and takes on it. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that, in his view, it is in effect, eternal scripture. So that was Elder McConkie's viewpoint of it and I think maybe there could be different reasonings or viewpoints. I guess I don't have like the kind of a handbook. I don't think that's in the official Handbook of Instructions: "How to De-canonize Something."
Well, and when we say de-canonized, what we mean is it's just not a part of scripture, but it doesn't mean it's not true. So let's not think, "Well, maybe we shouldn't be studying it." Oh, we absolutely should. And there are countless quotes from apostles and prophets who will tell you that Lectures on Faith is so important. It needs to be read, needs to be understood. And that's why we're doing it today.
Mandy Green 15:10
I appreciate that because I think it is one of those really rare instances. And like Tammy said, just because it's not actually printed as an aspect of that book, it's really worth looking at. And thank you for answering my questions.
Well, and you can still buy it. So you can go to Deseret Book and buy it. So it still got to be worth something, right?
Mandy Green 15:30
And I got my what, like, 1970s copy?
John Hilton III 15:32
That's the one I have! I have that exact—
Yes! The green, the green one. Uh huh. Oh, my gosh, I have a good idea. Let's take a picture of us holding our books up and we're gonna put it in our show notes. Can we do that? That would be so fun. Okay, everyone, hold your books up. Everyone smile. Okay, that was so fun. Okay, so friends, Here we go, we are going to dig into Lectures on Faith. So grab your book, if you have one and something to mark it up. Because this is going to be so much fun. We are going to start with Lecture First.
Okay, here's my first question then, to start out because we're in Lecture 1. How would you describe faith? And not in like a scripture way? I want you to describe faith, according to you. Faith, according to John. Faith, according to Mandy. What does it mean to you?
Mandy Green 16:35
Like I said, it went from being a noun, like something I possess, to something that I practice and the lectures boil it all the way down to "Why do you get up in the morning?" I mean, it's far more fundamental than you would think. It's ingrained in every activity you probably do.
John Hilton III 16:54
Yeah, I think that's really the key word in the Lecture on Faith that uses the phrase, it is the "Principle of Action" in all intelligent beings. In fact, if you would have asked me, before we even started talking about doing this podcast together, I would have talked, maybe quoting Elder Bednar about faith as action in the present, looking ahead to the future, and then seeing evidence in the past, this sort of threefold frame of faith. And then I went to the Lectures on Faith and in verses eight and nine, that's, that's where it was. Faith looks ahead to the future, sees the evidence in the past, and then acts in the present.
This idea that faith is action, and what you both talked about, it's astounding when you consider every day we are acting on faith, everything we do. And that's what was so beautiful about the way Lecture First talks about it. So on that first page, the very first thing, number one, says, "Faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness, necessarily claims the first place in a course of lectures." The first thing he says, we have to talk about, here's our foundation of faith. And then you turn the page and like you said, Mandy, he just goes into example after example of how we're exercising faith every day. If you plant a garden, and you put seeds in the ground, you just exercise faith.
John Hilton III 18:09
So kind of at the core of this first lecture is a definition on faith from Hebrews chapter 11, verse 1, and I think it's really interesting to look at what comes right before and right after. At the end of Hebrews chapter 10, the author of Hebrews is talking about a difficult time, maybe there's a lot of persecution. And he says, "Cast not away [therefore] your confidence," and then gives the definition of faith. And then right after that, it's almost like a "Greatest Hits of Faith," where one thing after another, you know, it's like, by faith, Abraham did this. And by faith, Noah did this. And I don't even have time to tell you about all these amazing things that happened. And I think that's maybe a little practical application we can have. In my life, sometimes I struggle with faith. But if I can look back and remember my own personal "Greatest Hits of Faith," that gives me that strength to know, "Okay, God has helped me in the past, and he's going to help me again. I don't need to cast away my confidence this time." So for me, that's, that's one kind of maybe practical thing that we can capture from this right up front is the idea that part of faith is to have an evidence of things that we've seen in the past. That's what Hebrews 11:1 says, "Faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen." And in our own lives, we've all had little bits of evidence. And I found that honestly, I've forgotten a lot of them. But if I take the time to write things down, and I've actually created my own "Greatest Hits of Faith," so on one document, I can go through and see, "Oh, yeah, you know what God has blessed me, he has helped me." So when I feel stuck and scared, I can go back to that.
I love that.
Mandy Green 19:44
"Greatest Hits of Faith." That is so perfect.
John Hilton III 19:48
That's probably a metaphor that only those over 40 will understand. Like why a greatest hits CD?
Greatest Hits by Casey Kasem. Oh my gosh. No, I think it's so great. You know, I just recently heard a quote and it is by Thomas Edison, and he said, "Opportunity is lost by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." And I think we could say "faith" instead of "opportunity." I think faith gets lost on so many people because it does come dressed in overalls, and it looks like work. And when you go read those Greatest Hits, that's a lot of work these people did. But it worked, which I think is so cool. So thank you, John, for pointing that out. That is excellent.
Mandy Green 20:26
Yeah, so then verse 13 [in Lectures on Faith 1], it also says, "Faith is not only the principle of action, but of power, also."
Mandy Green 20:38
That's such a beautiful statement. That there's power in that action, and I think so many times, culturally, we discount having power, right? We kind of like shove it off on to someone else like, "I don't have heavenly power. I don't have this power that comes from God," and right there, 13 verses in, "You have power, and if you're exercising faith, it's a principle of power." Like bust out your comic books, right? Just put a "BAM" right there.
Mandy Green 21:08
So if we're going to talk about faith, which is action and power, then I have to just talk about my favorite word in Hebrew for faith. And the word in Hebrew is "emunah." Now emunah in Hebrew, here's what you need to know about it. When we think about faith, we place action on the person that we have faith in, such as, "I have faith in God," hoping that He'll really help us out and do something for us. But that word "emunah" in Hebrew, places action on the person who firmly supports God. So I like this because when I say, "I have faith," it means, "I'm supporting God. I am acting, and that action will turn into power." So perfect example of this is found in Exodus, chapter 17. This is the story about Moses, Aaron and Hur. And there was a war that was happening, and the children of Israel were being defeated. And they needed to win. And so Moses went up to the top of this mountain, and he took Aaron and Hur with him. And when they got to the top of this hill or mountain, wherever they were sitting, Moses held up his hands. And every time he held up his hands, Israel, they would prevail, right? You guys do remember this story? So much fun enough? I don't know, John, if you did this in seminary, but you'd have kids come up, and you'd have a guy sit in the middle who was Moses, right?
John Hilton III 22:18
See how long he can hold up his hands before his hands get tired. And give him books, two hymnbooks in each hand or something.
Totally. And how heavy his arms must have gotten, right? Because that means he would have had to put his arms up for the entire duration of the war, and there's no way he could do that. So he decided, "I need help." So Aaron and Hut stand on each side of his arms, and they hold up his arms. Let's go to Exodus, chapter 17, verse 12, and we're going to read about this experience. And so, Mandy, will you read verse 12 for us?
Mandy Green 22:48
"But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
That word "steady," in that verse where it says "his hands were steady," in Hebrew is the word "emunah." "Hands were 'emunah' until the going down of the sun." Now, his hands were "emunah" because they were being held up and supported by Aaron and Hur. They won because they supported Moses. They acted, which was a sign of their faith, which gave them power, and they won. I mean, how cool is that? It's Lecture First, right there in action. And so it's really powerful when you think that faith has nothing to do with hoping God helps us. It has everything to do with what we're doing for God. And then in turn, it all kind of works out.
Mandy Green 23:42
I think that's why Hebrew is such a great indicator of action. It's a language based on action, and the Greek becomes more of a "person, place or thing," right? And so, if we always, when we're looking at religious things, if we look at them as principles of action, rather than nouns, I think that's going to help you see the power in the actions that you're taking. I mean, we do a lot of actions. Our liturgy is action, like our most sacred things are action. And so, I love that, Tammy. I think that's such a great expression of quote, unquote, faith.
John Hilton III 24:19
Yeah, that's really beautiful. I never noticed that before.
And I wrote this down because I knew I wouldn't be able to say it on my own. I'm just gonna read what I wrote. Because my brain sometimes when I'm teaching Hebrew, I get so jumbled. But I wrote, "It was the firm and steadfast support of Aaron and Hur who held Moses' arms, not the support of Moses, that allowed Israel to win that battle." So when we say, "I have faith in God," maybe instead we could think about it this way, "I will do what I can to firmly support God with power, and that's my faith." And so when James teaches that faith without works is dead, that's "emunah," right there. It is a principle of action, and then it is a principle of power. And so these actions create this testimony that we have because we just read a story now, that is a story we're familiar with that has become a testimony of God helping his people because they acted, right? Because these three men acted. So in the next segment, we are going to look at another aspect that has a huge impact on faith. And going back to what you said, John, about the greatest hits. That's kind of what lecture two is, it is a lineage of greatest hits. And we're going to talk about what role that has on faith.
Okay, so I want you both to feedback. Here we go. Just sit in your chairs, get comfy. This is a fun question. Think back to your earliest memory of sharing your testimony. What did it look like? How did you know what to do?
John Hilton III 25:49
I've got bad news. I, my first few memories are not great. The first memory when I was 10 years old, I was in Primary and I still remember, I was wearing this dirty brown coat. And it was Testimony Day in Primary and there was a sort of pressure on everyone to go bear their testimony. And I did not want to bear my testimony, but it felt like you had to do it. So I just went to the front. I said, "I want to bring my testimony. I know this Church is true. I'm thankful for my family. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." boom, done. I said it just about that fast. And it's so interesting that I can still remember that.
Okay. And for those of you listening, just FYI, back when we were kids, you actually bore your testimony in Primary. Kids were not allowed to do it in sacrament meeting, so we had a separate—we had our own separate sacrament meeting too. The priests would come in and give us the bread and water in Primary. Do you guys remember that?
Mandy Green 26:32
I never had that experience, actually.
John Hilton III 26:35
I didn't either.
Mandy Green 26:36
I remember going up to the stand, but apparently at a young age, I bore my testimony to the vacuum cleaner, most vociferously. So, no wonder Eureka or I'm not sure what brand it was. But—
John Hilton III 26:50
Maybe we're supposed to take the gospel to all creatures and your—
Mandy Green 26:55
Yeah, just leave the vacuum cleaners out and encourage some type of approach to it.
I think it's so great. Well, universally, would we all agree that majority of kids get up and say, "I want to bear my testimony. I know this—" Even with the same cadence, right?
John Hilton III 27:10
Right. There's a rhythm.
How do they know to do that? That's my question. And it's a pretty easy answer.
Mandy Green 27:15
John Hilton III 27:18
Maybe it's the same way a lot of people started their prayers, "Dear Heavenly Father, we're thankful for this day." I mean, where did that phrase come from? But you just kind of hear it, it becomes repetition. And that's what you do.
Okay, so everything you guys said is absolutely a perfect setup for Lecture Two, because Joseph Smith now teaches us, "Listen, here's how we can have faith. It's based on tradition. It's based on what has been handed down from father to son to wife to child since the days of Adam." And so lecture two is going to be basically an entire retelling of the creation, and of Adam and the garden and his children and all sorts of things. So before we can even go through this, we have to go to the very end of Lecture Two. Now, if you're in a hardcopy book, it's going to be on page 37. If you're in the old school, green copy, it's page 32. And if you're online, it's going to be question number 147. It's at the Q&A part that's at the end. And that's kind of cool, because a lot of these lectures, Joseph Smith would present and then they would have a Q&A, like questions would be asked, and he would answer them. And so at the very end, here's what we want to know about Lecture Second. This is how it sums it all up. And, John, can you read that for us? It starts with "Is the knowledge of the existence...."
John Hilton III 28:29
Yeah. "Is the knowledge of the existence of God, a matter of mere tradition, founded upon human testimony alone, until a person receives a manifestation of God to themselves? It is."
Now that is so cool to me, because the entire Lecture Second is Joseph teaching, "Well, Adam bore testimony to his family, and Seth bore testimony, and so on." And he even points in here, Cain knew that there was a god. And He even took that to his family. But he would then kind of twist it and make it a negative thing. But there has always been a knowledge of an existence of God through all generations. And it's because of the testimony that they shared, that our testimonies today exist because people have shared their knowledge and existence of God. So two paragraphs above what we just read, is another really cool point. It says, "What testimony have men, in the first instance, that there is a God? Human testimony, and human testimony only."
John Hilton III 29:30
I think is interesting, because both on that question, and the other one, I think I might have answered, "No, it's not just human testimony. We have the testimony of the Spirit." And it's so interesting that the focus there really is this transmission from one person to another, the human witness,
Mandy Green 29:45
Well, and that you have to trust yourself. There's an element of that that's so deeply personal and that you have to recognize that within yourself. That's the "feeling and thinking" aspect of it.
I think it connects with what you just said, John, because testimony is power. I have one experience that happened. I was at a Girls' Camp, just two years ago. And this young woman, 16 years old, Brooke Bowen—Hi, Brooke! She got up and bore her testimony at Girls' Camp. And she shared her testimony about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And I will never forget that moment because I wasn't really feeling anything. I was just watching, waiting to eat my s'more when it was over. And this 16-year-old got up, and she bore her testimony—it even makes some emotional now because she bore her testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit witnessed to my heart at that moment that what she said was true. And I was sobbing. And it was her testimony and her testimony alone, that was a witness to me that Jesus Christ is our Savior. And that was so cool for me. So I think, like you said, John, it is all about the Spirit that testifies to us, but we have to have people who are willing to testify.
John Hilton III 30:56
And that reminds me of the first time that I really, genuinely bore my testimony. I was 15 years old at EFY. And just through like, the blessings of the Lord, I was in the same testimony group with someone from my hometown. I hadn't come with him specifically, but he was someone I really admired. And when he got up and bore his testimony, I felt a powerful witness. And for the first time, I wanted to go and share my testimony. And I can still remember that moment.
Mandy Green 31:24
I love Girls' Camp testimony meanings.
They're the best.
Mandy Green 31:27
They're the greatest.
Well, in the class that I was at, for all us new seminary teachers, we learned this principle, and I will never forget when the teachers challenged us at that moment, and we wrote this in the side margin of our book, they said, "Teach with testimony to excite the inquiry and lead those diligently to search God." And then they gave examples, because then I was like, "Well, how do you teach with testimony?" And they gave countless examples of how you'd do this: share experiences, share stories, every time you have an experience in your life that can testify that God helped, that the atonement is real, that is how you teach with testimony. And as parents, or as adults who have influence over any younger children, how cool to think that you can teach with testimony by sharing life experiences that will excite this inquiry, and that will lead those kids that you know, to diligently search God. Is there anything better than that?
John Hilton III 32:19
Mandy Green 32:20
When you think of those testimonies, and those witnesses that are born to you, there is a force that truly enters your heart, and electrifies it and ignites it and makes you think and feel in different ways. What a beautiful principle of power.
John Hilton III 32:37
And in this Lecture Second, as it's kind of recounting the story of Adam and Eve, it focuses on the fact that after they're driven out of the garden of Eden, that they offer sacrifices, and they didn't know why. And then an angel came and taught them that this was in similitude of Jesus Christ. And so as we're trying to spark that testimony, and share those experiences, I think we're seeing here from the second lecture, the importance of centering our focus on Jesus. And it's not just testimonies and experiences in general, although there's a whole variety that can be powerful. But it's this focus on the Savior from the beginning.
Perfect, John. You're absolutely right. I love that. Thank you. So let's turn the page, let's just go to Lecture Third. In Lecture Third, all we need to mark is number or verses 2, 3, 4, and 5. I'm going to give you a little teaser for this, because we're not going to spend a lot of time here. But this is what we're gonna spend the rest of our time on, is talking about these three important principles. So, John, will you please read for us verses 2, 3, 4, and 5?
John Hilton III 33:39
"Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Thank you. So at the risk of any of us being imperfect and unproductive, we are going to focus on these things. So we just did the first one. We know that He exists through testimony, and testimony alone, through our actions, and through the power that comes from that. So secondly, is the next thing we're going to talk about. A correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes and I am so excited. This is the verse that changed my life. Then we also have third, which we're gonna talk about at the very end. But let's just focus on second right now and I could—seriously, this is my favorite, and I've asked John and Mandy to help me teach the characteristics and attributes of God. And I can't wait to see what they have. So we're going to do that in the very next segment, and we're going to start with Mandy Green.
Here we are in segment four and, Mandy, you're going to take on the great job of teaching us about the characteristics of God. And in the next segment, John is going to teach us about his attributes. So I'm so excited. Mandy, start teaching us.
Mandy Green 35:27
All right, let's go. First of all, I wondered if, Tammy, you would read Mark, chapter 2, verse 22?
"And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles."
Mandy Green 35:49
Excellent. Thank you. And in the Greek there, it's like "no man," it means "not one person." Literally not one person is going to put new wine into old bottles.
I have a quick question. Can you just tell us what the symbolism or imagery is behind this new wine, old bottle kind of a thing?
Mandy Green 36:05
What exactly are we talking about here?
Mandy Green 36:08
Wine is not really in our culture. But anciently, it was the predominant drink. Everyone drank wine because you don't have a Brita water filter in your refrigerator, right?
Mandy Green 36:20
And it's also such a beautiful symbol of Christ's blood being shed. And so when you have new wine, and I'm talking about a new, heady wine, like when we talk about Joseph Smith, and the Doctrine and Covenants of this new church, we're talking a new, heady wine, like something that no one's experienced. I get so excited about this, because here we have Christ talking about putting new wine and you don't want to put it into the same container that you've always put it in.
Mandy Green 36:54
It won't hold up, right? The wine's already been soaked through, it will change the flavor, the color, the taste of the wine. And I think it's so important that Joseph Smith went to all the trouble with these Lectures on Faith saying, "If we put these new covenants and commandments back into the same framework that we've been given through Protestantism, Catholicism, Calvinism, you're going to get the same result." In Lecture One, it said that you're fruitful and productive like a perfect, fruitful faith. And I think the tradition, just of humanity, of human-ness, is to take something and put it back in the framework that we always know, or that we're most comfortable with. But Joseph really is quite a revolutionary. Jesus Christ is a revolutionary! And they're taking this new, heady wind, like we're actually going to reintroduce covenant relationships and ritual and ordinance, and we want you to not put it in the same framework. Okay, let's look at another point of view on that. John, would you please read Matthew, chapter 9, verse 17?
John Hilton III 38:01
"Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved."
Mandy Green 38:14
Excellent. So that last word is so beautiful. It's used three times in the New Testament, and it means "conserved, preserved, kept safe, kept in mind." Or, it's actually used when Luke says, "Mary kept these words and treasured them in her heart." Tammy, let's go back to Lectures on Faith, lecture number 3, would you read 12 through 15? And John, you read 16 through 18? And let's look at what the new wine skins are. I think this is just amazing.
Well, I just have to say this, Mandy, because we've talked about this in the podcast several times. But this idea that the God that existed to all of these people was a mean God. He wasn't a touchable God, he was the God I kind of thought I was growing up with not really—
Mandy Green 39:00
He was waiting to kill you. And strike you down with lightning.
Yes, this Calvinistic approach to who God is. And so he's scary. You don't have an intimate relationship with Him. And so to put characteristics on God, or attributes, this is crazy, because the only characteristic or attribute they thought of was angry, mean, can't do right by him.
Mandy Green 39:23
So I love that you just gave us that analogy of now we have new wine. That is so powerful. I love that I love that. Okay, here is 12 through 14: "From the foregoing testimonies, we learn the following things respecting the character of God. First, that he was God before the world was created, and the same God that he was, after it was created. Secondly, that he is merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and that he was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting."
Okay, just pause there. I want everybody to just like push pause on this podcast and rewire that into your brain. Say it 8000 times until you believe it. Okay, go on.
I mean, I just have to read it again.
Mandy Green 39:43
Okay. "Secondly, that he is merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and that he was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting. Thirdly, that he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday today and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation."
John Hilton III 40:38
I just have a quick question on that. I'm curious what it means to you, because I've heard lots of people say something like, "Well, if God never changes, why have things changed in the church? Like why did the Word of Wisdom used to be optional and now it's a requirement? What would you say to something like that? Because here it is clear that God does not change. But policies change. How would you address that?
Mandy Green 40:58
Well, I think it's answered in verse 21, where he said, "But it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, as it is to have the idea that he is gracious and long suffering. For without the idea of unchangeableness in the character of the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith." Meaning, you're not subject to God's whims. It's not like, "Oh, I like Mandy today. But she really bothers me most other days," or "I let her get away with that as a teenager, but now she's got to toe the line." I think the unchangingness is in the character of God, and that He is always going to be merciful and kind. You don't have to say, "Oh, swear words, I was born in the Old Testament. I'm up popsicle creek without whatever, I don't even know what the allusion is." But He will be the same for all of the people that come after us. And what a beautiful thing. If you have to have bedrock faith in something, it absolutely can't be changing. It can't be based on a mood or a whim or even my actions won't change it, which I think is tremendously comforting. So I would separate it, John, in answer to your question, I would separate the characteristics of God from policy. I think they're two radically different things.
I love that too. Because when we talked about all those things He is, if He's abundant, and goodness here, and you go around in a circle, He'll be that again. Like, it's a circle. He isn't abundant and goodness, and then He takes a sharp right and it makes a square and now He's kind of not abundant, and then He takes a sharp left. Like it's not a square, it's beautifully flowing.
Mandy Green 42:38
Thank goodness He's not in construction, right? Like, "Oh, detour. Sorry."
Mandy Green 42:43
Reroute. Recalculating. And just to underscore that, it won't change.
Mandy Green 42:50
You cannot change it. You cannot alter the characteristics of God. Now man tries to, right? Man tries to impose in there and that's why it's so important that He's the same today, forever. It's one eternal round. Every time you come back to it, you're going to get the same person. If there were a blanket in the gospel that gave comfort, I hope that's it. That's like the deluxe, you know, 800-filled down comforter that you throw over yourself at night.
Well, an old wine is gonna be like, "No way! There's, that is not true. He is not like that!"
Mandy Green 43:29
The old wine's bitter and messed up. I've got these old bottles.
Not good for anyone.
Mandy Green 43:36
Thank you. All right, John. Let's keep going on verse 16.
John Hilton III 43:41
Okay, so continue from where we left off. "Fourthly, that he is a God of truth and cannot lie. Fifthly, that he is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him. Sixthly, that he is love."
Mandy Green 44:01
I mean, I just feel like the earth quaking beneath me as I read these. I mean, these are huge, bedrock, life-changing principles, that in a Western tradition, in particular, are just going to be shaken. He's a God of truth and cannot lie. He's not going to mess with you. He's not going to tell you one thing, and it's not true. Fifthly, oh my goodness, no respecter of persons. End of story, exclamation mark, underscore. It doesn't matter who you are, or where you came from, or what color your skin is, or what your background is, or even how you access God, that you will be accepted of him. Tammy, you were gonna say something?
Yeah, I was because in that verse, we have to define this word scripturally, the word "fear." "He that fears God," because it seems silly that you would fear God and that he's gonna love you for doing that. So let's reframe that word. In scripture when it, what does it mean when it says, "to fear God"?
Mandy Green 44:59
To reverence, to reverence. To have a reverence for God.
It's the approach that you have when you come towards God. So yeah, thank you. Now it makes more sense. Every nation, he that reverences and is in awe of God and works righteousness is accepted of him.
Beautiful. Thank you. I didn't see fear in there. See how it tries to creep in there? It just says that. And sixthly, that He is love. Notice that the language changes from having these attributes like merciful, duh-duh-duh, this becomes a hard to-be verb. He Is Love! He is the action and qualities and everything to do with love. It's just so awesome. Verse 19, "An acquaintance with these attributes in the divine character, is essentially necessary, in order that the faith of any rational being can center in him for life and salvation." Both of those. Talk about new wine blowing up this idea of a fearful, punitive, mean God who's looking there with like a scorecard trying to look at what you're doing. From a God that is love, that is merciful, that will look at anyone who approaches the throne of God with love. It's so beautiful. William Blake said, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite." I would include that is you. And that part of the Divine that's in you can access it because of these six characteristics of God that are outlined in this beautiful lecture. I mean, six lines and we just rewrote theology from the last 1800 years.
Yeah. I think for me the way I've always taught verse 18, is when it says that "He is love," what that means is He is not capable of hate. He can't be one or the other. If you are love through and through, there is zero hate in you. Which is weird for us as humans because you can love and hate on a dime almost. But when it's eternal, remember one eternal round, that means if He is love here at the beginning, He is love at the end. Hate is not a part of who He is. At all. So for those of you who think that God might hate you or not like you at times, that right there, like you just said, Mandy, we just changed the way we've always viewed God. He is only love.
John Hilton III 47:33
I know that as we've been reading these, we've been thinking about God as in God the Father. And at the same time, Mandy, this was a quote that you shared with me a little while ago from Elder Holland. Elder Holland says one of the "many magnificent purposes served in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . is the grand truth that in all Jesus came to say and do, including and especially in His atoning suffering and sacrifice, He was showing us who and what God our Eternal Father is like." Going back to this idea of God is merciful and gracious, just this morning I was reading in 3 Nephi, chapter 9, when Jesus says—this is during the time of destruction amongst the Nephites, and there's been the three days of darkness, He says, "Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me." And I love this direct image of Jesus extending his merciful arm, showing us that's what the Father does. He's extending a merciful arm. He's not saying, "You know, I've got to, I set boundaries with people I accept. He's saying, "If you come unto me, I will receive you."
Mandy Green 48:47
I love how you always bring in the Savior as this perfect personification and example of the Father. Thank you.
It is excellent. Well, with that, then let's just move on to our next segment. We're going to talk about Lecture Fourth. And we're gonna turn the time over to John because I can't wait for John to teach us about the attributes of God.
Alright, John, you're up. Here we go, the attributes of God. Okay, but here's something that I think we all need to know: Do Heavenly Father and Christ have the same characteristics and attributes? And I kind of asked that earlier, and now I'm just excited to hear what you have to teach us.
John Hilton III 49:34
It's verses 5 through 10 that talk about these six attributes of God. So, in verse 5, first knowledge. Verse 6, secondly, faith or power. There's the connection that we were talking about earlier. 7, thirdly, justice. Verse 8 fourthly, judgment. Verse 9, fifthly, mercy. And then sixthly in verse 10, truth. So these are the attributes of God listed here in the fourth lecture. And as I was thinking about like, "Is this about Heavenly Father? Is this about Jesus Christ?" I realized that maybe that was kind of the wrong question to even be asking because often I think in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we've sometimes have focused on the difference between God and Jesus. They're two different people. But on one occasion, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "I think I am safe in saying that part of the reason we are so misunderstood by others in the Christian tradition is because in stressing the individual personages of the Godhead, we have not followed that up often enough by both conceding and insisting upon Their unity in virtually every other imaginable way. For this we have reaped needless criticism, and we have made our LDS position harder to be understood than it needs to be." And so I thought, "You know, maybe I don't need to worry so much is this talking about Heavenly Father or is this talking about Jesus Christ?" Because in so many ways they're unified, they're one. And I could learn without worrying about the nitpicky details of exactly who are we talking about? I don't know, what do you guys think? Does that sound crazy to you? Or what are your thoughts?
Mandy Green 51:13
I think it's beautiful to know that, you know, we really think that Christ is a God, and that He's the express image of his Father. And so, what a beautiful way to look at like anyone with a divine calling and role is going to have those same attributes for you. And then it continues to, as we grow in these attributes, we also have this ability to become merciful and loving and full of justice, and goodness. And, boy, that's helpful for me.
I agree, John. And I think that they're the same, because one of the things that I was taught about these attributes, and I have it at the top of my page, it's written "Attributes of God is the way He treats his children." That's what these attributes are. And I think these attributes are the way that Jesus Christ treats us. It's his interaction with all of us. And so if you can understand that these are talking about both of them, it just makes them so, so real, like someone I can really talk to and count on. I think that's the word, I can count on this really happening.
John Hilton III 52:16
So I was thinking that because this is the Easter episode, that maybe we could go to Jesus Christ on the cross and look at how, in one of the most excruciating moments of all history, he's still manifesting these attributes. And while the Savior is on the cross in Luke chapter 23, verse 34, he says, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And then the Joseph Smith translation adds in the little detail that he was speaking this about the soldiers who crucified Him. And so you think about in the very act of being crucified, he's extending mercy, forgiveness, graciousness. And we see this even in the next statement that he says in the cross that honestly, when I was growing up, I think I had maybe a negative perception about. So while the Savior's on the cross, people are mocking him, and one of the thieves also begins to mock him and says, "Hey, if you're really the Son of God, set us all free." And the other thief says, "Hey, why are you bugging him? Like he's clearly innocent, and we're guilty." And then he turns to Jesus and says, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." And Jesus says, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." And it seems like, I don't know what your guys's experience was, but when I was growing up, that verse was almost always had an asterisk or a footnote next to it like, "Well, but remember, there's no deathbed repentance. And when Jesus says, 'You'll be with me in paradise,' he really means 'You're going to spirit prison, and you'll be taught the gospel there.'" That's actually a little different than what Joseph Smith said. Joseph Smith talked about this exact passage. And then he said, that in the statement Christ was saying, "This day you will be with me in the world of spirits, then I will teach you all about it, and answer your inquiries." And so while Joseph Smith doesn't say the person, the thief is automatically going to be exalted, he makes it really clear that Jesus Christ will personally teach that thief in the next life. And to me, that's a powerful moment of mercy. It would be easy to say like, "Oh, this, this guy's a criminal, he's worthless, he has no hope for him." But Jesus is still saying, "I will teach you." And I've never seen a painting of this moment. I don't know if there's any artists who are part of our conversation today. But I would love to see a painting of the penitent thief and Jesus in the spirit world as they embrace. And to me it's an illustration of what we've been talking about: the love, the mercy, these eternal attributes of God and Jesus Christ. For me, I'm pretty good at having good attributes on my best days. But if you catch me like at a bad moment, or I'm stuck in traffic, I don't have those good attributes. But he, Jesus is at his very worst, lowest moment still manifesting love, mercy, grace.
That is so cool too. Because when you think about it, that was his very lowest, worst moment, he was able to extend mercy. So of course, he'll extend it to us. And he will be abundant in goodness. I just think that is great, John.
Mandy Green 55:18
And think of that discipline. I mean, like me my worst moment? Am I going to be extending mercy?
No, not at all.
Mandy Green 55:25
No, you're not going to get it. So that's such a beautiful thing. I think the other thing that stuck out to me was this idea of judgment. Again, we think of judgment as punitive. And my son actually was reassigned to the Roseville Mission, which is where my husband served a mission. And he actually was able to go find a man that had blessed my husband's life, who was kind of on the outs for a little bit, had a very, like his lowest moment, he lost his wife. And here's Elder Green #2 at his doorstep saying, "You changed my dad's life. And you changed my family's life. And you changed my life and look where I am. And who is talking to you?"
Mandy Green 56:14
The man's response was profound, because he thought, in all of his 23 years as a member of the church, he was a convert, ex-con mate. You know, had swear words tattooed in the knuckles of his hands. And he thought he'd never made a difference in someone's life. And I've just been reflecting so much on, I think judgment is so much more like: "You bless this person here. You went here. You looked at someone here, you smiled at someone here." I think it's all the good things we did. Much more so than "Here's what you didn't do. Or here's, here's the bad things." And I love that example of the Savior. It's, "Look at the good choice you're making right now, with how you've reframed so much in your life by recognizing the Son of God."
Yeah, by just saying, "Let me be with you." That is great.
John Hilton III 57:10
What an amazing story, Mandy. Wow. That is a testimony that there's no coincidences in the work of the Lord.
Mandy Green 57:15
Oh, and if you knew all of it, it would blow your mind. God is a God of micro-cosmic connection.
That's so cool. Great story. Thank you for sharing that, Mandy.
John Hilton III 57:27
One of the things that I thought was interesting is an attribute that's not directly mentioned in this list of six is love. But as we were talking about in the last segment, that is one of the characteristics, and it was just "God is love." So again, thinking about Jesus as a manifestation of God's love and how that works together. Jesus Christ himself personally defined his greatest act of love as his death. He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Mandy and Tammy, I'd be really interested to know your thoughts on this. In my experience, most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't like looking at images of Christ's crucifixion. They'll say something like, "It's death." "It's uncomfortable." "I like to focus on the living Christ." And of course, we do believe in and focus on the living Christ. At the same time, we believe in the loving Christ. And here Jesus is defining his greatest act of love as his death. And so I wonder how have you guys that maybe experienced crucifixion images and tried to find beauty in them, rather than only an image of death or suffering.
Mandy Green 58:40
Well, as a college student, I took an Isaiah class and I had to produce an art project, which slowly morphed into like this burned up cross with old flowers because there was a verse in Isaiah that said, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." And for me, that cross was such this beautiful monument to the word of god standing forever. You couldn't kill it. You couldn't take it away. You couldn't undo the act that had been done. And so I think I did get a really bad grade on it because I used a cross at BYU, but it reframed it for me personally as like this monument to this amazing act.
John Hilton III 59:25
I can't believe, I can't believe you didn't get an A+ on that. I mean, I think it's a really cool scriptural...
Mandy Green 59:29
I did get a bad grade. I won't say who the teacher is.
John Hilton III 59:32
Uh-oh. Yeah, let's keep that off the record. You know, one thought I have about that. Recently, I've been looking at what early Latter-day Saint women taught about the Savior's crucifixion and I love Eliza R. Snow, she refers to it as the triumph of the cross. So I think that imagery of the word still stands. That's powerful. It's an image of triumph and strength. Tammy, what were your thoughts?
I think it's always been sort of jarring, and especially the symbol of the cross, which is what I love about your book because I can remember being younger and seeing people who are members of our church wearing crosses, thinking, "Oh, you're one of those kind of members. Like, we don't really wear crosses. I don't know if you got the memo." But reading your book was really helpful because, and I loved you quoted Tamu, because Tamu is my good friend. And she taught me a lot about the cross, she wears a cross. And I loved when she said, "When I'm wearing a cross, and another woman in another state is wearing a cross, it's a symbolism of sisterhood. You kind of see it, and you're like, 'Oh, you believe in Christ.' And then they know I believe in Christ because of that cross. It doesn't even matter that I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." And so I appreciate how you've reframed this way that we think about the crucifixion and the cross and what it really means in our culture, because it's always been sort of negative. But your book really changes that. And it makes it the most beautiful experience. And it's no longer jarring, I think.
John Hilton III 1:00:54
It is really interesting, because the Savior himself says that we should behold or look at or feast our eyes upon His crucifixion wounds. He says, "Behold, the wounds in my hands and feet, and in my side." And there is I think, obviously, some pain and some discomfort there. But when we want to understand the characteristics of God, when we really want to understand His attributes, I think we can look carefully at His atoning sacrifice, especially this week for Easter. This is maybe an opportunity for us to carefully study, Gethsemane, Calvary, and the Resurrection, because perhaps in no other time in his life is Jesus manifesting his true character, which is in turn showing us the characteristics and attributes of God.
Absolutely. I love that challenge that you just gave. Because when you said that, I was like, You know what? That is so cool to think of reading these attributes and finding Christ in every one of them. Going through Christ's whole life, and finding examples of knowledge, faith, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth. I think that is a powerful challenge.
Mandy Green 1:02:01
You know, you talked about "Our Greatest Hits," He has us remember Him at his lowest moment, His most pierced, strung up, which is also such a beautiful metaphor and image for how he meets us, right? I'll become so wounded and so low. And I'll lift you up.
John Hilton III 1:02:23
You know, one quick thought on that. I've heard people say, "Well, I don't want to think about Christ on the cross, because that is his lowest moment. Why would I want to remember him in that way?" But at the same time, we also live in a society now where vulnerability is so important. We want to see people at their vulnerability, we don't want to just see the highlights. And I think it's amazing that for centuries, Jesus has been leading the way in that. He said, "Come to me at my most vulnerable, I am opening up to you." And that, for me, is a really powerful outreach.
Yeah, you know, it just made me think, I wonder if it's easy for us to think about Gethsemane and not the cross because Gethsemane isn't visual. Like there's nothing we can really see what it must have been like, like to hear "bleed from every pore"? I don't really get that. I get it. But it's not a visual where being crucified is. You know how painful that must have been to have a nail through your hand, and your wrist and your feet. And so I think it's sometimes, maybe in a way, we're kind of escaping even acknowledging any part of Christ's atonement in Gethsemane and on the cross.
John Hilton III 1:03:24
And if you think about that, we want Jesus to feel our pain. We know that Jesus understands our pain. So is it too much to ask for maybe us to approach him a little bit in his pain?
Mandy Green 1:03:37
Well, and the symbols, I mean, everything that's taught to us by the divine is through symbol. So to ignore this huge, powerful symbol is to ignore a lot of truth. I mean, there's tons in that symbol that's just waiting for us to unlock. And I love that you're looking at that.
Yeah, that's excellent.
John Hilton III 1:03:57
So if anyone wants to do this kind of in-depth study of the final moments of the Savior's life, I've created some PDF files that have side-by-side accounts of what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John say about Christ experiencing Gethsemane and his trial and the crucifixion and the resurrection. So maybe we can put those in the show notes.
Oh, that'd be awesome! Thanks, John.
Mandy Green 1:04:18
Yeah, we will for sure put that in our show notes. Go there, access it. I'm gonna use it, I'm gonna use it to study, so thank you. Okay, so now we are going to take on the Thirdly, which is an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to His will. We're gonna talk about that in the next segment.
So I'm just gonna tell you right now, this is my absolute favorite one. I love Thirdly, and I will tell you there have been many times in my life where I have prayed, "Heavenly Father, is this the course of life that I should be pursuing? Is it pleasing unto thee?" I've said that several times after I've thought about something, pondered it, made my decision. That, for me, is the question I always ask Heavenly Father: "Is the course of life that I am pursuing pleasing unto thee?" And that is something that he wants, Joseph Smith wants us to think about. So let's go to Lecture Six. What I love about Lecture Six is that there are so many good golden nuggets that come from this. There are so many quotes you've heard, and you're like, "I wonder where Joseph Smith said that?" It's right here in Lectures on Faith. So what I asked my guests to do was to read this and just start shooting out some of the things you loved about lecture six.
Mandy Green 1:05:36
I love in three, it said—well, it talks about horrible forms of death. So there's a nice reference to the cross, John—but this idea that when this earthly House of their tabernacle was dissolved, we don't take any of this like coat of skins. They had a building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. I mean, that's beautiful language. And it's that this course is really this great storehouse in the heavens that do travel with you. What is the currency of the heavens? You know, your relationships, and the knowledge that you are able to attain in this life. I mean, just language-wise, it's beautiful, but the concept's even more beautiful.
That's a great one.
John Hilton III 1:06:20
One for me is verse 7, this is one of those famous phrases, "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." One of the things that almost struck me, not quite as humorous maybe, but we kind of don't talk that way today. If you look at verse 8, it is vain for persons to fancied themselves that they are errors with those, or can be heirs with those who have offered their all in sacrifice. I think sometimes today we do try to soft pedal a little bit. You know, "Do your best. God loves you no matter what." And here's saying, "If you're not willing to give everything, you're not going to be able to dwell with those who have." That's, I don't know, there's a sense of seriousness there.
How would you define that "everything" for someone listening, like, "Give everything?"
John Hilton III 1:07:09
Well, I mean, backup, in verse five, "For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among women"—excuse me, well I guess that's true too—"his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life." It's hard to say exactly what that is going to look like for each and every person. But it does kind of make me think about Elder Anderson's recent General Conference talk where he says, "People are speaking of Jesus Christ less. Who will speak of Him more? Am I willing to stand up for the Savior, even in situations where it might not be popular?" You know, I might say something like, "Oh boy, I don't know if I should speak up for the Savior. I might lose some friends or lose some followers." And that sounds pretty weak compared to Abinadi, right, who stands up for the Savior and loses a lot more?
You know, John, I really like that, because I'm thinking about the early saints, and how much they were willing to sacrifice and what that looked like and required. I mean, I'm even thinking of in Doctrine and Covenants section 37 and 38, the Lord says to Joseph Smith, and to all the saints, "Look, you're going to need to leave New York and go to Ohio." And then they told all the saints, "By the way, you all have to leave too," and suddenly the saints are like, "Wait, what? Come again? Like we had to leave everything?" And Joseph Smith was like, "Yeah, and the Lord said, by the way, you might not even be able to sell your farms, you're just gonna have to leave. If you're going to believe in this church, you're going to need to leave Colesville and go to Ohio and live there with the Saints." I mean, they truly gave everything. And so we're not required to do that today. But I like how you said, am I willing to talk about Jesus more? Am I willing to speak up and use him in my everyday conversation? That's our call today. I don't have to move to Ohio. But I certainly do have to talk about Jesus more.
Mandy Green 1:08:58
He's not messing around here. He says, "counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ." That's knowledge. We're talking Ether 12 kind of knowledge that you know the Lord, and look at what he's saying is filth and dross? Your lands, your family, your wife and children. I'm like, "Dang!" I mean, and I think it's the willingness. I think, you know, in Egypt, they weigh your heart. It's where your heart's at it, it's your willingness to do anything that the Lord requires of you, in this effort to have knowledge of Him. I mean, I think everything in our temple is propelling us to have knowledge of Him and to know that what he would ask us to do is genuinely him. You know, that's saying, "Level up. At least five levels. I don't even know how many levels you're talking but, you know?" The Lectures on Faith, they are heavy hitting.
Well, and to support that, what you just shared, John, go to 10. Here is what he says also in support of the sacrifice, "Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life." I mean, it just, it kind of just brings it all back around, that this sacrifice will create testimony which will give you power which will give you faith which will give you the inheritance that we're looking for. It's the only thing we came here for, the celestial kingdom.
John Hilton III 1:10:30
One thing I think that's really important to say about this, though, is that that does not mean everything is going to work out right now, in the moment. I think this conversation is coming back from the third lecture, right where it says three things are necessary to have faith. "Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to [God's] will." So you talked, Tammy, about several times when you've prayed, and you've wanted to know your your life is on the course that God has prepared for you. And I'm sure you have experiences like I do, where I've prayed, and I've done it, and things have not worked out. I remember a time when I prayed about moving forward. And as a result, I lost my job. And I was the sole provider for a family of six. And it was super scary. And it was a long time before that situation was resolved. And so there's not always going to be like verse 10 "those who make the sacrifice will find that their course is pleasing the sight of God," that doesn't mean tomorrow, or the next day, right? Like we might stand up for the right thing or do the right thing and things get worse. And maybe because it's our Easter episode, we can highlight those women who were at the tomb of Jesus Christ. For them, they didn't know that he was going to be resurrected. But they didn't run away. After his death, they stayed near the tomb, they stayed near Jesus, even when things were hard. That's a great example for each one of us as we're going through our own, we might call "Saturdays" of life, right? When the tragedy of yesterday has happened but tomorrow's triumph still hasn't occurred. We're stuck in the middle. And that's, at least for me, a lot of my life is there in the middle. Don't leave Jesus, just like those women didn't leave him.
So I have a question, John, going back to the story you shared then. So you felt like that was pleasing? That was the decision that you should make, like you got the green light. Right?
John Hilton III 1:12:22
Looking back on that experience, does it make sense? Did you learn enough from that to go, "Oh, I had to go through that." Or, was it a time where you're like, "There's no, there wasn't even any purpose to it. I don't even get it." Because sometimes we go through hard things that God's like, "You're going to need this lesson. So I'm going to say give you a green light. It's gonna look different than you think."
John Hilton III 1:12:43
So in my case, on this particular story, it was like that where looking back three years after it happened, I could look back and see little things that happened along the way because I was unemployed that wouldn't have happened otherwise, led me to where I am today. And actually, this is kind of interesting. At the time, I was praying for things that wouldn't have happened. If I hadn't left my job, if I hadn't become unemployed, these things I was praying for wouldn't have happened. But I guess I'm kind of even hesitant to share that. Because now, looking back, it's a nice, tidy, little story. And it can even be a faith-promoting story. But at the time when I was stuck in the middle, it didn't feel that way.
John Hilton III 1:13:25
And not every story has a happy ending like that, where you can look back and say, "Oh, good! Look at how everything tied together." And so I think it's important that whether it's right now or in the next life, that the important thing is to act, knowing our lives are in accordance with God. And maybe we won't see the reason for that now.
Mandy Green 1:13:43
I mean, honestly, how much of your lives do you live in the middle? I would say 98% of my life is lived in the middle, in the Saturday. What would you both say?
John Hilton III 1:13:54
Yeah, I think for me, a lot of it. But I'm kind of the thought like that prayer: "Is the course of life I'm pursuing pleasing unto thee?" There's been plenty of times where it didn't work out. But I kind of feel like God was like, "Yeah, and I knew it wouldn't. And that's where I needed you to be. And it's one eternal round, it's all gonna come back full circle." You just got to stay by the tomb, as you said, John. Don't run. And maybe sometimes that is what it's about, is when it doesn't work out which way do I run? And God's saying, "Yeah, if you stay by me, then yeah, that course of life was pleasing unto me." Those hard times are hard. I want us to read verse 12. Mandy, will you please read verse 12? And then I want to hear what both of you thought about it.
Mandy Green 1:14:36
"But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not there, faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them."
Now, I want to know what you think because we've had Jenny Reeder on before. And Jenny has said, when she was diagnosed with cancer, she was like, "I had faith and doubt, I think they can exist in the same person." So she gave us a great description of this in her life. But I want to know what your thoughts are about number 12.
John Hilton III 1:15:50
One of the things that I noticed is, it says, "For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.” And just like light and darkness don't exist at the same time, but if you're in a dark room, and you're flipping the light switch off and on really fast, you can toggle really quickly between light and dark. And I wonder if that's maybe some of the difference that faith and doubt don't exist at the exact same moment. But as humans, we can go really quickly back and forth between the two. "Yes, I believe. I have faith. Oh, but what about this?" And that I think might be some of the wrestle that we deal with.
Oh, I like that. I love the imagery of the light switch. That's perfect.
Mandy Green 1:16:27
I like his final line there: "they will grow weary in their minds." Boy, 2020 is like the banner year of weary in their minds, isn't it? Or a challenge like cancer or something like that? I think he's saying that your spirit has to win out. It's not your spirit that's saying, "I doubt God's ability to do this." It's your mortal-ness. It's your human-ness that's going to speak out and say, "What is going on here? This is ridiculous." Right? And I think we're involved in this information war, which is a war we've never fought. We don't know how to fight. We're, we're learning about it. But we've grown weary in our minds. And I think the key there is that faith has to exist on a deeper level that you have to continue to raise your weapon and combat doubt and fear. And at least take up your arms and, and I'm all for bearing your weapons of war, except in this case, when darkness is encroaching. You have to be able to even just put your hand on that sword and rely on the power of goodness and mercy and justice. All of these things, like just put your hand on the sword. And remember who you are, right? There's this beautiful moment, sorry to geek out, but Lord of the Rings, right? Théoden's been taken over by these words of Saruman, and he's forgotten who he is. And he just sits on this throne, but he's helpless. He's not doing anything. And Aragorn encourages him to place his hand upon his sword. And when he does, the spell is broken. And he remembers who he is. And he starts to go after the darkness. Not just say, "This is darkness." But we have to go after it and say, "Not on my turf. Not today, Satan. Hashtag whatever, you know. Wear the shirt, whatever it is."
That is great, Mandy, I like that. Just a reminder, touch that sword. Because I think even the best warrior dressed in the greatest armor is still afraid. Even though he has the most people behind him, and it's guaranteed they're gonna win. There's still that element of like, "Are we sure?"
Mandy Green 1:18:42
You don't have this megaphone that's constantly like, "Good job. I know I told you to do this, right?" It's a "Go do this!" And you're like, "Okay!" It's like, when I had my first child, I had this like, ideal dream sequence of a child being born. And then nine months of total, really hard struggle and more after that, and it was going back to the greatest hits, John, it was like "You knew this," and you're like, "Did I really? I don't know." But it's that ability to live in the middle, if you've got one or two person that that faith exists, right? And in lecture six at the end, he says doubt and faith can't coexist. And so we've really got to choose faith or doubt and boy, there's a lot of voices for doubt. Which makes me just think you know, it's okay to live in the middle. As long as you're clinging to that thread of faith. That really is enough. It could be, it could be 1% of 1%. It would still be enough. That's how powerful faith is.
Listen, this whole experience just summed up motherhood. Is it pleasing unto me? You bet. Have kids. Alright, I had kids. Boy, this is way harder. I don't like any, like, this is hard! No thanks, and God's like, "Yeah, it's kind of part of the plan." I mean, it is hard. Yeah, that whole, you just summed up motherhood. Pleasing unto Thee? Yes, you can do this.
Mandy Green 1:20:09
Boy, it is parenthood.
John Hilton III 1:20:13
Tammy, at the very beginning, you mentioned that there was something in the Lectures on Faith that totally changed your life. And I'm wondering if there's a specific story or experience you have that's connected to what we've just been talking about right now?
John Hilton III 1:20:26
If not, like, feel free to not take it.
Yeah. No, I'll tell. That it's a great question. For me, when I read Lectures on Faith my sophomore year in college, and I realized, because the way my teacher taught it, he said, "Now that He has characteristics and attributes, He is a man. And if He were to walk into this room today, He would look like a human being. He would have a body and you could hug him." And immediately I was like, "Oh! What? For real?" Because I was raised with a dad, and I've said this before on the podcast, my dad loves me. He thinks I'm the greatest human being ever. And I've always kind of thought that maybe about God. But when he, when my teacher said, "If He walked into this room, and you could hug Him," I visualized this God who thinks I'm the greatest human being that has ever lived, and I could physically hug him. That changed the way I prayed. It changed the way the conversations I had, as I was sad and single and wondering what I was going to do with my life, I suddenly realized, "Oh, he gets it. He's really listening to me." And since that, there have been so many hard times, in my life, in marrying a widower, raising two kids, of being a stepmom. I mean, you better believe there have been conversations I've had with this real human person, or, you know, not human, but what you know what I get, like, what's a better word? What am I trying to say? Celestial person that I could really sit down with, and just cry, and he would hug me. And I think that's what changed everything for me because He will. He loves me. He's abundant in goodness. And I believe that about God. I just do. And it breaks my heart when I have friends and acquaintances who don't know that. And that He is a God of truth, that He just won't lie. So when he says it, you can bank on it. He really is going to do what he says he's going to do. That's my testimony of God. Thanks for asking that question, John.
John Hilton III 1:22:29
That's powerful. Thanks for sharing that story.
Yeah. Well, thank you very much. Thank you for letting me share my story, and being very vulnerable just then. I appreciate that. And thank you for joining me today. This was such a great discussion. I didn't know how it was going to turn out. And it was amazing, better than I even thought. And there is no doubt in my mind that we were supposed to study Lectures on Faith. So for those of you listening, go read it, I just think it will, it will change your life. I think it's something we should maybe read every January 1st. Just to kind of regroup our brains, re-remember who God is, and then live our year. I think that's what I love about this lecture. So now I want you guys to take a quick minute and think about anything that is your takeaway, anything you learned today, or anything that you're going to go, "Oh, I'm going to remember that."
John Hilton III 1:23:14
So one confession that I'll make is I don't know any Greek or Hebrew. And just hearing the two of you talk and saying little details like, "Oh, well, this Hebrew word means this. It made me want to go back and look, and I'm probably am not going, I'm definitely not going to be a Hebrew teacher like you, Mandy. And I'm not going to take four years of Hebrew like you did, Tammy. But there are some online tools, like the Blue Letter Bible, and it makes me say, "I want to go and like just poke around a little bit and see what I could find by looking up a few words," because the insights that you shared from the Hebrew roots of different words just were really inspirational.
Thank you. That's exactly how I feel. The more I learn, I'm like, "Wow!" I love Hebrew.
Mandy Green 1:23:52
Well, there's so many things buzzing around in my brain, but I love this idea of one's Greatest Hits. I can talk about things in a very academic way, but then looking at my own Greatest Hits, or the experience with my son and husband. I mean, he talks about how, in his letter, I will tell this to my children and my children's children and how— I love music. I have my heavy metal ballads, Greatest Hits Volume Two in my car right now. And I am thinking about my Greatest Hits like that 1%, a 1% of my life, where I absolutely, unequivocably know something, and how revisiting that and playing that again will help me in the minutiae of all these other days.
Well, those were awesome takeaways. Thank you so much, Mandy and John, for sharing those. Mine are that one, The Greatest Hits of Faith, making a list of what my Greatest Hits of Faith are, and trying to share those stories with my children because that testimony is power. And that is where they'll get their testimony from until they start getting their own Greatest Hits of Faith. So I love that. And then I wrote down that the new wine in old bottles. I've never considered that. That that is what Lectures on Faith is, is it's new wine. And he's saying, "Let's not put it in old bottles" Because I just love imagery. I love visual things. So both of those were awesome. And I'm changed today because of our discussion. So thank you for joining us. You guys are great. Thank you, friends.
Wow! For those of you listening, we would love to hear what your big takeaway was from this episode. I can only imagine that there's so much because I mean, I could go on about the stuff that I learned today. So if you haven't already joined our discussion group on Facebook or Instagram, go and do it. Join. It's so much fun to see what everybody's talking about. And it's just a really cool community. I've loved seeing what everybody has to say. Also, you can ask questions too, post questions, and we all help answer each other's questions. Then every week, usually at the end of week on a Sunday, we do a post asking for what your big takeaway was. So comment on the post that relates to this specific episode. And let us know what you guys learned. And I read every single one of them and I cannot wait to hear what your takeaways are going to be from this week's episode. You can get to both our Facebook and Instagram by going to the show notes for this episode on LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday. And it's not a bad idea to go there anyway, because that's where we have all the links to all the references and the transcript of this entire discussion. So go check it out, and you'll get John's stuff in our show notes too. So just go. The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ Original brought to you by LDS Living. It's written and hosted by me, Tammy Uzelac Hall, and today, our incredible study group participants were John Hilton and Mandy Green. John Hilton's book is called Considering the Cross and it is worth considering buying this book. It is really good. And Mandy Green is the host of a podcast called "Reflecting Light," and it is excellent. I would take the time to go listen to it. You can find more information about these friends at LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday. It is produced by Katie Lambert and me, Tammy Uzelac Hall. It is recorded and mixed by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. Thanks for being here. We'll see you next week. And wow, if there was ever an episode to remember this, you, you are God's favorite.
That was great. That was a fun discussion.
Mandy Green 1:27:13
I love that Greatest Hits. That's awesome.
Mandy Green 1:27:16
I have like three CDs in my car. Yes, I still use CDs.
John Hilton III 1:27:18
Ha ha. Greatest Hits. You too, Greatest Hits.
That's so good.
Mandy Green 1:27:25
What is the one I have right now, it's like something like Head Banger Ballots, Greatest Hits: Number Two.
Number Two. Number Two, Greatest Hits.
Facts about the Lectures on Faith:
What are the Lectures on Faith?
"Joseph Smith referred to the Lectures on Faith as 'lectures on theology' (History of the Church 2: 176; hereafter HC). There are seven of them. Lecture 1 explains what faith is; Lecture 2 describes how mankind comes to know about God; Lectures 3 and 4 make clear the necessary and unchanging attributes of God; Lecture 5 deals with the nature of God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; Lecture 6 proclaims that the willingness to sacrifice all earthly things is prerequisite to gaining faith unto salvation; Lecture 7 treats the fruits of faith—perspective, power, and eventually perfection. In the original printing the lectures filled 74 pages" (Larry E. Dahl, “Authorship and History of the Lectures on Faith,” in The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, ed. Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University), 1–21).
Who wrote the Lectures?
"The idea has been expressed that Sidney Rigdon wrote these lectures, but they were compiled by a number of the brethren and the Prophet himself had the final revision of them (Smith, Church History 137)"
(Larry E. Dahl, “Authorship and History of the Lectures on Faith,” in The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, ed. Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University), 1–21).
"During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the Elders, and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, which the committee appointed last September were now compiling" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 2, "The Lectures on Theology. 1," 180).
Where were the Lectures taught?
The Lectures on Faith is the popular title of a set of seven theological lectures delivered in the School of the Elders in Kirtland, Ohio, in the winter of 1834–35" (Restoration and Church History, "Lectures on Theology (“Lectures on Faith,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
School of the Elders was not School of the Prophets. The School of the Prophets began in January 1833 and concluded in April 1833. The School of the Elders began in November 1834 and lasted until March 1835. Whereas the School of the Prophets was intended primarily for leaders of the Church only, the School of the Elders was open to all potential missionaries. A special room, located in the lower story of the recently completed printing office in Kirtland, was appointed as the classroom for instruction both in Kirtland" (see "Appendix 1: First Theological Lecture on Faith, circa January–May 1835," p. , The Joseph Smith Papers).
Were the Lectures on Faith originally part of the Doctrine and Covenants?
"That book [the Doctrine and Covenants] consisted of two parts. The first contained the Lectures on Faith; the second consisted of selected revelations and inspired declarations received since the beginning of this dispensation. The two parts together made up what were called the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church. The priesthood councils and other Church members assembled accepted the committee’s recommendation. The result was the publication of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which came off the press about the middle of September 1835" (Larry E. Dahl, Charles D. Tate Jr. The Lectures on Faith, In Historical Perspective, 1990).
Pictures of the Lectures on Faith as part of the Doctrine and Covenants
(Larry E. Dahl, “Authorship and History of the Lectures on Faith,” in The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, ed. Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University), 1–21).
When were the Lectures removed?
The Lectures remained part of the Doctrine and Covenants for more than 80 years before they were removed in the 1921 edition (see Larry E. Dahl, “Authorship and History of the Lectures on Faith,” in The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, ed. Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University), 1–21).
Why were the Lectures decanonized?
"Hence it was that Joseph Fielding Smith, in an interview on 22 July 1940, is quoted as having assigned the following reasons for the removal of the lectures from the Doctrine and Covenants:(1) The Lectures were never received by Joseph Smith as revelation;(2) The Lectures are only instructions relative to the general subject of faith and are not the doctrine of the Church;(3) The Lectures are not complete as to their teachings the Godhead;(4) It was thought by Elder James E. Talmage, chairman of the committee responsible for their removal, that to avoid confusion and contention on this vital point of belief [i.e., on the Godhead], it would be better not to have them bound in the same volume with the commandments and Revelation" (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, "Section 4: 'O Ye That Embark in the Service of God,'" ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
Why study the Lectures on Faith?
Quote: “I love the Lectures on Faith. For me they carry a special spirit. They are a rich source of doctrinal treasures couched in clear and powerful language. One can drink as deeply from them as he has a mind to. I commend them to you" —Larry E. Dahl (Larry E. Dahl, Charles D. Tate Jr. The Lectures on Faith, In Historical Perspective, 1990).
Picture of John, Mandy, and Tammy with their Lectures on Faith (books and online)
"Faith Defined": Lecture First
"Faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness, necessarily claims the first place in a course of lectures which are designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ" (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, "'Faith Defined': Lecture First).
Quote: Elder Bednar said there are, "three basic elements of faith: (1) faith as the assurance of things hoped for that are true, (2) faith as the evidence of things not seen, and (3) faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings. I describe these three components of faith in the Savior as simultaneously facing the future, looking to the past, and initiating action in the present" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith," September 2007 Ensign, ChurchofJesusChrist.org ).
8 Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
9 From this we learn, that faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen; and the principle of action in all intelligent beings" (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, "'Faith Defined': Lecture First).
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward (Hebrews 10:35).
Quote: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
13 As we receive by faith, all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we, in like manner, receive by faith all spiritual blessings, that we do receive. But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power, also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven, or on earth. Thus says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. (11:3): (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, "'Faith Defined': Lecture First).
Hebrew: Emunah = The Hebrew word for faith. It means to be firm and steadfast. Its root is Aman, meaning to support.
12 But Moses’ hands awere heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur bstayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun (Exodus 17:12).
- Steady = Emunah
"It was the firm and steadfast support of Aaron and Hur who held Moses' arms, not the support of Moses, that allowed Israel to win the battle. When we say, "I have faith in God," maybe instead we could think about it this way, "I will do what I can to firmly support God." James taught that faith without works is dead, and so doing what God asks is what gives us our faith in Him (James 2:14-26). Now, it wasn’t so much my faith in God that is called into question, but my faith in a more divisive, complex, and uncertain being." —Tammy Uzelac Hall
Where does the knowledge of God come from?
Question 147: Is the knowledge of the existence of God a matter of mere tradition, founded upon human testimony alone, until a person receives a manifestation of God to themselves?
It is (Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Object of Faith: Lecture Second," Lectures on Faith).
Question 144: What testimony have men, in the first instance, that there is a God?
Human testimony, and human testimony only (2:56) (Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Object of Faith: Lecture Second," Lectures on Faith).
Written in the side margin of Tammy's copy of the Lectures on Faith:
Quote: “Teach with testimony to excite the inquiry and lead those to diligently search God."
What do we need to possess in order to exercise faith?
2 Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
3 First, The idea that he actually exists.
4 Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
5 Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ (Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Character of God: Lecture Third," Lectures on Faith).
22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles (Mark 2:22).
- Greek: No man = absolutely no one
"In the parable, the new wine represents the Savior’s teachings and the fulness of the everlasting gospel, and the old wine represents the practices, traditions, and beliefs of the Pharisees under the law of Moses" (New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, "Lesson 46: Luke 5," ChurchofJesusChrist.org ).
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved (Matthew 9:17).
- Preserved: Conserved, kept safe, kept in mind
What do we know about God?
12 From the foregoing testimonies, we learn the following things respecting the character of God.
13 First, That he was God before the world was created, and the same God that he was, after it was created.
14 Secondly, That he is merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and that he was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting (Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Character of God: Lecture Third," Lectures on Faith).
16 Fourthly, That he is a God of truth and cannot lie.
17 Fifthly, That he is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him.
- Fear = reverence, awe, respect
18 Sixthly, That he is love (Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Character of God: Lecture Third," Lectures on Faith).
Can these characteristics of God change?
21 But it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, as it is to have the idea that he is gracious and long suffering. For without the idea of unchangeableness in the character of the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith. But with the idea that he changes not, faith lays hold upon the excellencies in his character with unshaken confidence, believing he is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that his course is one eternal round (Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Character of God: Lecture Third," Lectures on Faith).
Why is important to know God's attributes?
19 An acquaintance with these attributes in the divine character, is essentially necessary, in order that the faith of any rational being can center in him for life and salvation. For if he did not, in the first instance, believe him to be God, that is, the creator and upholder of all things, he could not center his faith in him for life and salvation, for fear there should be a greater than he, who would thwart all his plans, and he, like the gods of the heathen, would be unable to fulfill his promises; but seeing he is God over all, from everlasting to everlasting, the creator and upholder of all things, no such fear can exist in the minds of those who put their trust in him, so that in this respect their faith can be without wavering.
Quote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite" (William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).
Quote: Of the many magnificent purposes served in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, one great aspect of that mission often goes uncelebrated. . . . It is the grand truth that in all that Jesus came to say and do, including and especially in His atoning suffering and sacrifice, He was showing us who and what God our Eternal Father is like, . . . (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Grandeur of God," October 2003 general conference).
14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will acome unto me ye shall have beternal life. Behold, mine carm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me (3 Nephi 9:14).
What are the attributes of God?
6 Secondly, Faith, or power. Hebrews 11:3: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Isaiah 14:24,27: The Lord of hosts has sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
7 Thirdly, Justice. Psalms 89:14: Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne. Isaiah 45:21: Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take council together: who has declared this from the ancient time? Have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior. Zephaniah 3:5: The just Lord is in the midst thereof. Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King comes unto thee: he is just, and having salvation.
8 Fourthly, Judgment. Psalms 89:14: Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne. Deuteronomy 32:4: He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without inequity: just and right is he. Psalms 9:7: But the Lord shall endure forever: he has prepared his throne for judgment. Psalms 9:16: The Lord is known by the judgment which he executes.
9 Fifthly, Mercy. Psalms 89:15: Mercy and truth shall go before his face. Exodus 34:6: And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious. Nehemiah 9:17: But thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful.
10 And Sixthly, Truth. Psalms 89:14: Mercy and truth shall go before thy face. Exodus 34:6: Long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth. Deuteronomy 32:4: He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment. A God of truth and without iniquity: just and right is he. Psalms 31:5: Into thy hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Attributes of God: Lecture Fourth").
Quote: "I think I am safe in saying that part of the reason we are so misunderstood by others in the Christian tradition is because in stressing the individual personages of the Godhead, we have not followed that up often enough by both conceding and insisting upon Their unity in virtually every other imaginable way. For this we have reaped needless criticism, and we have made our LDS position harder to be understood than it needs to be" (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Knowing the Godhead," January 2016 Ensign).
Written in Tammy's Lectures on Faith:
Quote: "Attributes of God is the way He treats His children."
Jesus Christ showing mercy while on the cross:
- JST Luke 23:35 … they do (Meaning the soldiers who crucified him,) …
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
Quote: "There has been much said by modern divines about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying, 'This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.' King James’ translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise. You may as easily find a needle in a haymow. Here is a chance for battle, ye learned men. There is nothing in the original word in Greek froze which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was—This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits: then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries. And Peter says he went and preached to the world of spirits (spirits in prison, I Peter, 3rd chap., 19th verse), so that they who would receive it could have it answered by proxy by those who live on the earth, etc" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, "Chapter 5," p. 424).
The Savior and the Cross:
Ours is the sorrow— ours the loss
For through the triumphs of the cross
His noble part by death set free
On wings of immortality
Tracing the steps the Savior trod
Has reached the paradise of God
Quote: “I don’t wear a cross for God. I wear a cross for YOU, and my other brothers & sisters! Jesus & God know who I am. Those I meet on the street don’t. My wearing of the cross lets other followers know that they can hold me accountable to the laws of Christianity & discipleship" (Tamu Smith, Sistas in Zion (@SISTASinZION), “I don’t wear a cross for God,” Twitter, October 2, 2019, https://twitter.com/SISTASinZION/status/1179425482439380992).
37 aBehold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the bnails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall cinherit the dkingdom of heaven. Amen (Doctrine and Covenants 6:37).
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may athrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may bfeel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the cGod of Israel, and the God of the whole dearth, and have been slain for the sins of the world (3 Nephi 11:14).
3 Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods, and the wasting of their substance, joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing, (not merely believing,) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1) (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Law of Sacrifice: Lecture Sixth").
7 Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Law of Sacrifice: Lecture Sixth").
8 It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Law of Sacrifice: Lecture Sixth").
5 For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Law of Sacrifice: Lecture Sixth").
Quote: "As the world speaks less of Jesus Christ, let us speak more of Him" (Elder Neil L. Andersen, "We Talk of Christ," October 2020 general conference).
What the early Saints had to sacrifice:
3 And again, a commandment I give unto the church, that it is expedient in me that they should assemble together at athe Ohio, against the time that my servant Oliver Cowdery shall return unto them (Doctrine and Covenants 37:3).
37 And they that have farms that cannot be sold, let them be left or rented as seemeth them good (Doctrine and Covenants 38:37).
The power of faith:
7 For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself anot unto the world.
8 But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen (Ether 12:7–8).
Weighing of the Heart:
The ancient Egyptians believed that the heart recorded all of the good and bad deeds of a person’s life, and was needed for judgment in the afterlife. After a person died, the heart was weighed against the feather of Maat (goddess of truth and justice). The scales were watched by Anubis (the jackal-headed god of embalming) and the results recorded by Thoth (the ibis-headed god of writing). If a person had led a decent life, the heart balanced with the feather and the person was rendered worthy to live forever in paradise with Osiris ("Funerary Customs: Weighing of the Heart," Carnegie Museum of Natural History, carnegiemnh.org).
What sacrifice brings:
10 Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Law of Sacrifice: Lecture Sixth").
Waiting in the Saturdays of life:
I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.
Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant.
On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross.
On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.
On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.
It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.
I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.
But the doom of that day did not endure.
The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.
And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.
Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come (Elder Joseph B. Writhlin, "Sunday Will Come," October 2006 general conference).
Faith and Doubt:
12 But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them (Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith, "The Law of Sacrifice: Lecture Sixth").
Quote: "Perhaps your hands would remember their old strength better if they grasped your sword" (J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).