False traditions can be stumbling blocks to your journey and especially to your personal relationship with the Lord. False traditions can be limiting, binding and even blinding to the truth and fullness of the gospel that the Lord intends for you to receive. Consider these scriptures:
D&C 123:7 It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.
D&C 93:36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. 37 Light and truth forsake that evil one. 38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. 39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. 40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.
D&C 74:4 And it came to pass that the children, being brought up in subjection to the law of Moses, gave heed to the traditions of their fathers and believed not the gospel of Christ, wherein they became unholy.
Overcoming false traditions will only happen for “seekers.” The Lord through His Spirit will teach a person how to work through each false tradition. Those that are not seekers are complacent and satisfied with their current personal truth. The key to working through false traditions is to not just ask questions, but learn to ask the right questions.
I am going to provide some comments in hopes that it will open your mind up to some new thoughts. What you do with those thoughts are up to you. Consider the following principles to help guide you through false traditions:
- God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
- The Lord invites all to come unto Him.
- The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel and is the most correct book on the face of the earth.
- There is no such thing as the infallibility of mortal man, no matter their title or status.
- There are three voices of eternity—your own voice, the voices of light, the voices of darkness.
- One’s own voice includes one’s own opinions, theories, questions. The voice of one’s own spirit is supposed to be supplemented by the voices of light in order for it to be a confirmation of personal truth.
Power in Priesthood
In the church, there are a lot of stumbling blocks that keep us from having a personal relationship with the Lord. Some of these include the proper understanding of power, priesthood, authority and keys. In our LDS culture, we use them in so often and in different ways—not all correct—and unless you have the proper understanding, it may cause you to discount your own experiences and may keep you from believing that God is approachable—that you can directly receive divine power and knowledge rather than outsourcing that relationship. For clarification, let me share with you my understanding of these four things. Please ask the Lord for your own understanding.
Power of God
Sure, the power of God is the creation power. Yes, it is the sustaining power of the universe with order and positioning of all things. And yes, it is the supernatural power and the ability to perform what we would call miracles. But do not forget it is also God’s ability to save or redeem souls (become spiritually born again) and lift souls from one spiritual estate to another—offering sanctification and justification (Moses 6:59-62).
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (Moroni 10:32-33)
The power of God is manifested in and through the gifts of the spirit. There is so much to add here that has already been said elsewhere, so I will refer you to two posts on the gifts of the spirit part one and part two.
How does one exercise the power of God?—Priesthood. I am familiar with the definition of priesthood that comes from my own church. However, I believe it contributes to several false traditions. Priesthood is the enabling, symbiotic relationship between the Master and a servant. It is a private connection—even a spiritual conduit—between each soul and the Lord. The Lord can do all things necessary and possible for each soul through this connection. It is the means of bestowing any portion of the Lord’s glory upon a soul. It is enabling because it inherently allows for a soul to receive more than what the telestial world can offer. It is symbiotic because the relationship is mutually beneficial to each person and the Lord.
This relationship is voluntary, submissive, meek, humble, and full of hope (belief and trust). It includes exercising faith in the Lord by being a seeker of the Lord’s counsel and His will in all things which is truth. This relationship has always been available to male or female, black or white, bond or free, young or old.
A servant does not submit themself to the Lord to earn the Lord’s power. Power is not the end goal. Rather, a servant seeks to do the Lord’s will because it will promote righteousness which is light. Deep, personal love for the Lord is the driving force. Using the Lord’s power is situational depending on the task at hand. Therefore, the Lord’s power is only a means to the Lord’s end (purposes). The Lord knows what is needed to accomplish any task. He gives limited and purposeful power to the servant to accomplish the Lord’s situational purposes.
There are orders of priesthood (Alma 13):
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood [greater relationship] of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son [an order of priesthood which the Lord has], which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things [this priesthood order exists outside and independent of the Lord]—8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling [select servants for select purposes], and ordained [ordered] with a holy ordinance [pronouncement from God including through symbols], and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end.
Joseph Smith revealed four orders of priesthood—namely Aaronic, Levitical, Melchizedek, Patriarchal. See also: JS, History, 1838–1856, vol. E-1, created 20 Aug. 1855–5 Apr. 1856
The holy order of God is an order for those that have been made holy through the power of God, beginning with those that have been made terrestrial through a baptism of fire and Holy Ghost. Within the orders of the priesthood there are lesser and greater priesthoods (including the holy order of God)—for souls at varying degrees of ascension and eternal progression.
So why does the Lord not perform this work Himself? He is the one who has the power anyway, right? So, why waste time to have a servant do His will and run the risk of not doing it exactly correct? The Lord is a Master Servant-Maker. He progresses by helping servants become Masters creating an unbroken line of Lords and even Fathers. In this way it is also symbiotic. There is a mystery in this.
When a servant is given permission to use God’s power situationally, this is “authority.” It is a false tradition to believe that a person carries around stored power unto themselves. It is correct to say that a person “possesses priesthood” but it is either incomplete or incorrect to say a person is a “holder of God’s power.” It is a false tradition and incorrect to say that a person carries around with them constant or endless divine authority (God’s permission)—even for a soul that is translated or has the sealing power. Christ himself demonstrated this priesthood relationship with the Father:
John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
True servants seek for divine authority (the Lord’s permission and direction) in each situation. If the Lord’s permission is granted then the Lord’s power will be present to accomplish very specific purposes. If the Lord’s permission is not granted the faithful servant will not move forward. If a person did try to move forward without the Lord’s permission, the power of the Lord would not be present. However, the power of darkness could usurp the situation. Thus, it is so critical to know the voice of the Lord in order to accomplish His purposes and to progress as a servant of the Lord.
There is a difference between divine authority and organizational authority. A person that accepts or receives a title in order to operate a religious institution must always receive divine authority from the Lord. Organizational authority comes from a people that allow a person(s) to preside over them (with leadership titles, offices or appointment) within a group or organization. A person with organizational authority does not necessarily have divine authority and therefore would not be able to exercise certain gifts of the spirit. A person with divine authority has certain gifts of the spirit (exhibited as fruits), but does not necessarily have to have, or need, organizational authority, even in spite of tradition.
An example of this distinction is played out between Jesus Christ and the Chief Priests and Elders (Mark 11:27-33; Matthew 21:23-27):
27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Another example of the Lord’s divine authority compared to that of the Pharisee’s organizational authority:
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority [divine], and not as the scribes [organizational authority of the scribes]. (Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:21-22; Luke 4:32)
In the Book of Mormon, to the court of King Noah, Abinadi demonstrated the power of God through divine authority, yet he had no such organizational authority.
Mosiah 11:20 And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord—Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.
As a matter of fact, they were filled with pride and despised him because he didn’t have any organizational authority—as if to say, “Who are you to tell us what to do and what is right? You have no title, position or office among us.”
26 Now it came to pass that when Abinadi had spoken these words unto them they were wroth with him, and sought to take away his life; but the Lord delivered him out of their hands. 27 Now when king Noah had heard of the words which Abinadi had spoken unto the people, he was also wroth; and he said: Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction? 28 I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him.
However, divine power was evident in that his words pierced the soul of Alma. Realize also that Alma actually lost his organizational authority, but later received divine authority to teach the words of Abinadi to hearers at the waters of Mormon, and even divine authority to baptize by water. Alma knew his personal desires did not have power without receiving divine authority (permission) directly from the Lord (Mosiah 18).
12 And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart. 13 And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. 14 And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. 15 And again, Alma took another, and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water. 16 And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon; and they were in number about two hundred and four souls; yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God.
(See also: 1 Nephi 10:22; Words of Mormon 1:17; Mosiah 13:6; 18:13-26; 23:17; 26:8; 27:14; Alma 5:3; 9:6; 11:35-36; 17:3; Helaman 5:18;
When a person is “ord-ained” by another, they have simply been “ord-ered” to go and live up to the office, title or appointment they have been given by advancing their relationship with the Lord to receive the gifts of the spirit necessary to fulfill that position. Some do—many don’t—because they love the honors of men (organizational authority) and their hearts are not truly centered on seeking for divine authority from the Lord.
How will a person know if any organizational leader has received those gifts? By their fruits—the exercising of the gifts of the spirit. How will a person see the fruits?
3 Nephi 14:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.
The person with office, title or appointment will share, declare and utter like Book of Mormon prophets. How should a recipient delineate between a leader’s own words (opinion, counsel, advice, etc) and the divine? The person with office, title or appointment should declare the divine by saying, “The Lord has said to me,” or “The Lord commanded me to say,” or even “In the name of the Lord, I witness….” There are some that claim that a person has received divine authority under the hands of one or more than one. This is not true. This is only “an ordination”—the “order” to go and receive from the Lord.
How will a person know if it is the actual words of the Lord? By confirming it with the Lord by asking. Will some, even with office, title or appointment profess “the Lord saith” or “in the name of the Lord” and it not really be? Yes! This is a false witness in that situation. According to Section 84 of The Doctrine and Covenants, they are “under bondage of sin, because they come not unto the Lord” (D&C 84:50)—they believe they can shortcut the process and don’t have to become an official servant (authorized) of the Lord by receiving a portion of the Lord’s glory from the Lord, or even come into the Lord’s presence to receive His own appointment under His hands. They believe their office, title or appointment alone gives them His permission/authority. This is vanity—“taking the name of the Lord in vain.” It is rooted in pride because it is self-serving. And according to this same Section (84), vanity is one of two reasons (unbelief is the other) that the church was placed under condemnation in the latter days (D&C 84:45-58).
Keys are a portion of essential knowledge that open the door to further enlightenment, truth and understanding. If it helps to understand, think of keys as principles or just progressive learning—truths learned line upon line, precept upon precept—things that because your soul understands one thing it leads to a wealth of other truths over time.
I will tell you one of the most profound keys, in my opinion—the true or pure doctrine of Christ. With a firm understanding of the pure doctrine of Christ, the Book of Mormon begins to come to life. This pure doctrine is what gives context to everything that is contained within it. By it and through this knowledge, the book is made plain and most precious. For example, this key of knowledge expands one’s understanding of the use of terms like “personal redemption, salvation, born again, saved, redeemed, baptism in the name of the son,” and many other concepts.
A true servant of the Lord has these keys of knowledge and teaches them to others to add value for the seekers of God. In modern LDS culture, keys are sometimes misunderstood and misapplied as “the authority to preside over others.” Perhaps this is the case because originally Joseph Smith was the revealer of many keys of knowledge that were previously not known or understood. These keys were attributed to Joseph because he had a relationship with the Lord (priesthood), he had a mission (purpose) from the Lord, the Lord revealed them directly to Joseph (the power of God via gift of revelation), and he was authorized (authority/permission) to share these keys of knowledge with distinct people or groups or with the general body of members (the power of God via gift of prophecy).
These “keys of knowledge” really were the “keys of the kingdom of God.” If you understand what the spiritual kingdom of God is from the previous post (part 2), you’ll now understand how important it was for Joseph to have, know and understand these keys of knowledge pertaining to the spiritual kingdom of God. For without them, how would he understand the Lord’s purposes, the mind and will of God, or know how to operate the telestial church on earth. This is the administration of keys—which is simply the proper application of knowledge—why, what, how, when, etc. (See also D&C 90:1-11; 97:13-14; 27:12-13; 64:1-5; 65:1-6) When we speak of there being a designation (or ordination, ordered) for certain persons to receive revelation on behalf of the entire body of the church, this is simply a designation for these persons to seek for and receive these keys (of knowledge) for the benefit of the entire body of the church. (See also D&C 81:1-7) However, these are general keys of knowledge of the spiritual kingdom of God. However, any individual can receive personal keys of knowledge that supplement their own journey with the Lord.
Keys are many and diverse—including such truths as the divine nature of God, the eternal purposes of the Lord, an understanding of the spiritual realms of light and darkness, how to fulfill your personal mission, how to act in stewardship, and even an understanding of the mysteries and much, much more.
Unfortunately, through false traditions, the meaning of keys has become twisted to express how one person presides over others. This has made the culture of the church more hierarchical, where it was once a relatively flat organization of believers. A proper understanding is that the Lord’s true servants serve the spiritual needs of others by introducing people to more knowledge and understanding of the Lord. They do this by having their priesthood increased by the Lord (the level of intimate relationship they have with the Lord) and by revealing keys (of knowledge of the Eternal Lord.) This is all done by exercising gifts of the spirit (prophecy, revelation, visions, etc.). There is none other way. And by their fruits ye shall know them—which fruits include a servant’s first hand witness of the Lord—being in His presence in the heavenly realms and the keys of knowledge that are received directly from Him. Keys of knowledge in this way include even seeing past, present and future as many Book of Mormon servants experienced.
I think it is really important to to point out that the word “keys” is only mentioned once in the entire Book of Mormon but it is referring to the keys that Zoram had to Laban’s treasury. It’s very interesting that “the most correct book on the face of the earth” and the book that “contains the fullness of the gospel” (Introduction, The Book of Mormon) has no reference to our modern culture’s use of “priesthood keys.” But it does record a great deal about the role that “knowledge” has in one’s plan for personal salvation and eternal life.
Remember, God is no respecter of persons and has invited all to enter into a covenant relationship with Him—male, female, young, old, black, white, bond and free. As your relationship (priesthood) grows, you will receive more keys (of knowledge) which will be preparation for you to fulfill your personal mission. In fulfilling this personal mission, situationally, you will receive the authority (the Lord’s permission) to exercise His power—the power of God through gifts of the spirit—all in order to accomplish the Lord’s works, whatever they may be.
Now, try to eliminate false tradition and reset yourself with a better understanding of the power of God, priesthood, authority and keys. Then, read and ponder D&C 84:18-26 by yourself looking now for a more pure understanding. My comments are as follows:
18 And the Lord confirmed [purposefully endowed] a priesthood [an enabling, symbiotic relationship] also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God [a greater and more intimate relationship with the Lord]. 19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel [reveals the true and pure doctrine of Christ] and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom [a broader and deeper knowledge and understanding of the mind and will of the Lord as it relates to the Lord’s own spiritual kingdom—the kingdom of God], even the key of the knowledge of God [personal and firsthand knowledge of the glory of the Lord]. 20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof [the sanctification and justification within the doctrine of Christ], the power of godliness is manifest [through various gifts of the spirit—including prophecy, revelation, visions, etc.]. 21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority [the Lord’s permission] of the priesthood [symbiotic relationship between the Lord and mankind], the power of godliness [the enabling power for a soul to receive more] is not manifest unto men in the flesh [in mortality; the telestial world]; 22 For without this no man can see the face of God [literally enter the presence of the Lord in the heavenly realms], even the Father [the Lord and even the Lord’s Father; a mystery], and live [without this intimate relationship and having been sanctified and justified by the Lord (Moses 6:60) through this relationship, you cannot enter the presence of the Lord without literally being destroyed by His glory]. 23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God [Moses literally taught them to believe God had invited them to come into His presence and receive the glory He intended for them to receive. This belief (hope) was supposed to precede personal supplication to the Lord for sanctification through baptism of fire and Holy Ghost.]; 24 But they hardened their hearts [were filled with “unbelief”] and could not endure his presence [without this necessary hope (belief) they failed to exercise faith unto repentance and allow the Lord to sanctify their individual souls]; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest [enter His presence in the heavenly realms] while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory [yes, literally]. 25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood [the intimate relationship in which the Lord could reveal keys and even reveal Himself] also; 26 And the lesser priesthood continued [a relationship centered around the Law of Moses; a teaching tool to help them overcome their unbelief and renew an individual and personal relationship with the Lord], which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel [this includes learning how to interact with angels of light and darkness instead of the Lord];
With this new understanding, I encourage you to go and read about Abraham’s experience of being ordained and subsequently receiving the divine blessings of God: Know Your Church History: The Pearls of Abraham.
Hopefully, this new perspective will help you see that your personal relationship with the Lord is unlimited. You have equal opportunity to learn, understand and receive as much as the next person.
In part 4, we will untangle: False Traditions—Prophets, Seers, Revelators
To increase your understanding of the doctrine of Christ you are invited to study the Book of Mormon more carefully and more intimately with the Lord’s guiding Holy Spirit. For additional help, The Doctrine of Christ Study Guide is available for free. As a supplement to the study guide, you can also study alongside a couple of blog series that unveils the doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon (ASSIGNMENT SERIES: The Covenant Path Unveiled in the Book of Mormon) and another that celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of the First Vision (2020—The Bicentennial Anniversary Celebration). See also The Doctrine of Christ, A Proclamation to the World
JourneyDoctrineOfChrist.org is based on free, online study guides to help you learn, believe, live and teach the Doctrine of Christ. The Study Guides invite any and all to see and know this truth for themselves that the Savior, Jesus Christ, has, in fact, introduced His doctrine and He personally invites all to receive personal redemption and to even literally receive Him while in the flesh (mortality).
Blog posts are only intended to supplement the Study Guides. Per all blog posts, seek the understanding and confirmations from the Lord in your own personal revelation. Study guides are intended to point you to both the Lord’s written word and His voice (personal revelation). These study guides will help you uncover what the Doctrine of Christ is and other essential topics that will help you in your journey to literally “come unto Christ” while in mortality. All study guides are available at JourneyDoctrineOfChrist.org.