The Rapture Unleashed

See that person sitting next to you? Depending on how righteous they are, they are going to disappear. One moment they are there and the next just gone. Not just them. A whole lot of people will vanish into thin air. That isn’t the half of it, as planes and cars hurl out of control because some drivers and pilots suddenly aren’t available. This will cause many deaths, but its only the start. Those left behind will then have to endure a massive amount of guilt for, well, not getting taken. A worldwide epidemic and tyrannical government takes over among a lot of other bad things. More fun follows.

All of this is happening at a theater near you, or cable. If you dare or even care. It appears that what is known as the Rapture, or something much like it, where the good people are taken up to Heaven and leaving the rest has grabbed hold of creative types. No less than one series and two soon to be released movies are based on this religious idea. Even the non-religious are inspired. The series isn’t religious and mocks those of faith while taking up the idea as a serious plot.

The series on HBO The Leftovers is about 2 percent of the population disappearing. Those left behind, particularly in Mapleton, New York where the show takes place, turn to fear and sorrow over what might have happened. A group known as Guilty Remnants sulk and fret over the loss and abandonment issues, forming a type of cult. Meanwhile, a former religious leader who now publishes a conspiracy newspaper grapples with the reason he didn’t go with those who were taken away. Trying to put the pieces together, both of what happened and the aftermath, is the town chief of police who works on maintaining law and order. The religious nature of the disappearances are only one possible explanation explored by the series. It could also be aliens, among other things. Be aware that this is an adult show by a cable channel not devoted to family friendly entertainment.

Two other productions are both movies put out by big money companies. The most talked about, Left Behind, stars Nicolas Cage, the hit and miss actor whose very presence can create a film’s buzz if not save it from disaster. It also stars Lea Thompson of Back to the Future and Some Kind of Wonderful fame. The movie is based on the popular book series of the same name, and is a film reboot of sorts. The other movie, The Remaining is a low budget, but still mainstreamed, treatment of the Rapture event. Described as a horror drama, it has pleased some from the Evangelical religious community. Filmed in the found footage tradition of The Blair Witch and Cloverfield, it follows a recently married couple who must live through the tribulations. This means lots of hysterical people and hand held unsteady camera work. Why the sudden creative interest in this topic is anyone’s guess. Continue reading

The Order of the Relief Society

This is the final in a series about Mormon Priesthood theology and development. The others can be read here, here, and here although this one is about the Relief Society. No discussion about the Priesthood is complete without a mention of this organization of women.relief society logo true blue

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, regardless of birth and station in life. A person does not even have to belong to the Church for the atonement to help in repentance and answers to prayers. The formation by the Lord of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to have an authorized organization to spread the Gospel and administer the ordinances of Salvation and Exaltation. Church is where the Priesthood is gathered for administration of those ordinances that include baptism and Temple work. For Mormonism, those who do not have the Priesthood are without authorization to administer those ordinances. For believers, Joseph Smith restored the ancient covenants and authority that had been lost since the time of the Apostles. No person or group can claim having the Priesthood unless they can prove an unbroken line directly to Joseph Smith and those he ordained. A revelation to those already in authority or a visit by angels are the only ways those who were not allowed the Priesthood can receive it. What the Lord takes, He can give. What He gives can be taken away, such as Israel in the days of Moses. The Priesthood is forever. Any mortal person’s right to it is not.

When the Priesthood was given to Joseph Smith, the Lord gave it to men and not women. The Scriptures and history indicates it has been that way from the days of Adam and Eve. Men have been tasked with leading the Church and giving the ordinances. It is an awesome responsibility that has not always been appreciated. Sad experience has proven that not all men are worthy of wielding such a precious and powerful tool. Other than the Lord Jesus Christ, no one on Earth is perfect. That is why there is a need for the atonement. Both men and women can partake of this divine gift and prepare for greater blessings. Women may not have the Priesthood as currently understood, but the Lord has provided them with their own authority and responsibility to work along side the Priesthood structure. The Relief Society is much more than a gathering of women in Church. Fully utilized, it can be a powerful influence for good, or as Emma Smith put it, “something extraordinary.” Continue reading

The Family Priesthood

By now most every Mormon is familiar with Elder Dallin H. Oak’s important talk about how the Priesthood can bless both men and women. Less well know is what could be considered a companion talk that describes the relationship between Church and family authority. He states, “The Church provides the teachings, authority, and ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships to the eternities.” He continues, “Each is so interrelated that service to one is service to the other.” The focus on families is not a Church preoccupation, but a doctrinal necessity that the Priesthood is there to nurture. The family organization is forever as opposed to the various offices of Priest, Elder, and President that exist to maintain order.

What we know of the Priesthood comes from Jesus Christ as given to him by God, and then passed down to others. Originally this power and authority began with Adam and continued down a father and son line of authority. It was first placed on the head of Adam by God after expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He in turn, according to Doctrine and Covenants 107:41-56, ordained other males who passed it on to their descendants:

” 41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner:

42 From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth;

43 Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.”

The order of the Priesthood continued with the ordination of Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah:

“56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.”

In Abraham 1:2-3 It is that same Patriarchal Priesthood that Abraham desired to obtain:

“2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.”

Despite Abraham receiving the Priesthood of the fathers, he did not receive it through his father who had lost it by wickedness. He had to receive it either through a new dispensation of angelic messenger or another person who continued having the authority. As is the case, he sought out the administrator with the highest authority who then lived, “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers” (D&C 84:14). They then ate bread and drank wine together, with Abraham giving tithes to him as the greater authority (Gen. 14:17-20). It is clear from this, Priesthood didn’t have to be passed down from father to son or even first born. However, once distilled to another it did become a family promise as Abraham passed it to his posterity (Gen 26:3-5), who then will bless all nations. Continue reading

The Priesthood of God

The typical Protestant denomination, as implied, protested against the Catholic Church. There is often no hierarchical structure representing Priesthood functions. Many believe in what is known as the priesthood of all believers, meaning that proper faith alone gives authority. Seminaries and colleges are set up to teach the doctrines in preparation of ministry work. Theology degrees are handed out as de-facto representations of authorized congregation leadership. Decisions of the church are determined by those who feel called to leadership duty and then voted in by the membership to a group or committee tasked with governance. Mormonism’s authority doesn’t come from the doctrine, but more like the Catholic Priesthood hierarchical structure. Men are called by others without prior training or personal desire to different offices of authority and responsibility. The biggest difference is that all men can receive the Priesthood even without any offices, but it must be a formal recognition. No one can declare they have the Priesthood (Heb. 5:4) without ordination from someone who had it before them.

Both Mormons and Catholics believe they have been given the authority of the Priesthood through Peter, although in different ways. For the Catholic it came down directly from him to others while he lived without any break. Mormonism, of course, believe that the angel John the Baptist gave the right of outward ordinances and the angels Peter, James, and John the more spiritual higher authority. The reasoning is a continuation of the belief that God must have order in His Kingdom. Permission and power must be granted in a specific way for mortals to have any authority to bless the world. Any other way, no matter how sincere the individual, is not recognized by the Heavens. Continue reading

Tracing the Priesthood

Tracing the formation of the Priesthood in Mormonism is not an easy task. Dates get confused, concepts change over time, offices are added or refined, and duties are not always clearly delineated. Like all institutions, the organization was not fully formed on the first day. However, in order to get a correct understanding of how the modern LDS Church works, the history of its authoritative structure must be explained. Joseph Smith wrote, “There is no salvation between the two lids of the Bible without a legal administrator. Jesus was then the legal administrator, and ordained His Apostles” (TPJS, pg. 319). Doctrine and revelation are of no value if the proper leadership is not in operation.

Historians start talking about Mormonism with the First Vision of Joseph Smith, where he witnesses God and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees after a day at work on the family property. Next in line is the vision of the Angel Moroni, with the eventual translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. Essential as these two events are for tracing what would be called Mormonism, it is the development of Priesthood that makes it of any importance. This more than anything for believers gives it purpose and meaning. The “Great Apostasy” is the loss of authority that the “Restoration” regains. The Priesthood is the Power of God to officiate in the ordinances of Salvation, and regulate the government of the Church.

During the process of translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery ran into the concept of authority to baptise. They questioned how anyone would be given the authority to baptise others. Joseph Smith stated, ““We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us,” to the Aaronic Priesthood (JS-H 1:68). Oliver Cowdery later wrote they were, “ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on Friday, the 15th day of May, 1829,” in a preface to a book of formal blessings.Having been given the Aaronic Priesthood, the two baptised each other in the Susquehanna River before returning to the duty of translation.

The Aaronic Priesthood ordination would only be the beginning of Priesthood confiral. John the Baptist promised more power would be given them by other messengers. Generally speaking, a higher priesthood having the authority to give the gift of the Holy Ghost would be bestowed on them. This promise was realized when the angels Peter, James, and John ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood on an unspecified date. The missing date has created a level of confusion amplified by possible differences between how the Priesthood was first understood and now. Continue reading