John Taylor, the third President of the Church, once overheard a member of the Illinois legislature who was visiting Nauvoo speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith.The gentleman asked the Prophet Joseph how he was “enabled to govern so many people and to preserve such perfect order, remarking at the same time it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else.”“Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 284).
“Correct principles;” Now there’s a novel idea. For our purposes here, however, I am going to call it “design criteria.” What we don’t have in this effort to obtain a set of scriptures suitable to the Lord, at this point, are a set of criteria designed to make a selection of what should stay in and what should be taken out, easy and consistent. So far, it seems our criteria is, “is it right or wrong, or do I like it, or not?” I would ask, according to who (or is that to whom)? With these items as the only things we try to use as our reasoning for sending suggestions to the scripture committee, I doubt we will ever be in agreement.
If, however, we could come up with a set of Design Criteria which a scripture could be judged against, by asking and answering “yes” or “no” questions about it, then consensus would likely become a relatively easy thing to achieve.
This post from this point will be the result of a small group of people putting their heads together and petitioning the Lord for guidance and revelation about what He wants that design criteria to be.
First of all, I will add that this effort should only be applied to the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearls of Great Price. The Old Testament (or should we call it the Old Covenant?) and the New Testament and the Book of Mormon (or should we call it the New Covenant?) shouldn’t be subject to this kind of editing, because they are other peoples’ writings according to revelations they received and compiled according to instructions given them of the Lord, and edited as far as the Lord felt necessary by Joseph Smith. The Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearls of Great Price, however, were assembled by this dispensation and should be relevant to any covenant the Lord should expect from us.
1. Does the intended inclusion emphasize a hierarchal or institutional structure rather than an equality among individuals? If the answer is yes, cast it out.
Equality of all in Zion. No strongman.
“…I am Messiah,the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven,which is broad as eternity; whoso cometh in at the gate and climbeth up by me shall never fall; wherefore, blessed are they of whom I have spoken, for they shall come forth with songs of everlasting joy.” (Le Moses 7: 53.)
“But, verily I say unto you that in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your King and watch over you.” (Le D&C 38: 21.)
“For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.” (Le D&C 78: 6.)
2. Is the intended inclusion to or about an individual without any other relevance to the body of the church as a whole? If the answer is yes, cast it out.
“Therefore, what I say unto one I say unto all; (Le D&C 82: 5.)
3. Is the intended inclusion revelatory or doctrinal in such a way that advances the reader’s knowledge of Jesus Christ, and his desire to keep His commandments? If the answer is yes, keep it in.
“And in that day no man will say know ye the Lord, for knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the water covereth the seas.” (?)
“Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength. And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.” (Le D&C 59: 3-4.)
4. Is the intended inclusion historical without revelatory or doctrinal content? If the answer is yes, cast it out.
“…History of [our] people should be engraven upon other plates…And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that [we] should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.” (Le Jacob 4: 3-4.)
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children and also our brethren, to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do.” (Le 2 Nephi 25: 23.)
5. Does the intended inclusion teach Terrestrial and Celestial principles, practices and doctrines? If the answer is yes, keep it in. We need all this we can get.
“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles and the law of the Celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (Le D&C 105: 5.)
“That the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ, let us become subject unto her laws.” (Le D&C 105: 38.)
6. Does the intended inclusion contain anything pertaining to a covenant land for development of the New Jerusalem? If the answer is yes, keep it in.
“Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy (Lehi) seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God.” Le 2 Nephi 10: 19.)
“[The New Jerusalem to be built after it is revealed] That my covenant people may be gathered in one in that day when I shall come to my temple. And this I do for the salvation of my people.” (Le D&C 42: 36 (34-36).)
7. Does the intended inclusion develop understanding of the Patriarchal Order? If the answer is yes, keep it in because that which was in the beginning concerning government and priesthood will also be part of this covenant.
Denver has said much about Patriarchal linage, family of God, Government, and Priesthood. (See Plural Marriage talk – last half, and Why a Temple, among many blog posts.)
8. Does the intended inclusion develop a more complete understanding of the ordinances of Baptism, Sacrament, Marriage, and Priesthood Ordination? If the answer is yes, keep it in. If it adds nothing to that which is already written in all the scriptures which makes it more applicable to our day, cast it out.
Baptism and the administration of the Sacrament as indicated in the current scriptures should not be added to, detracted from, or otherwise changed. Marriages must be performed (see current Governing principle on marriage for principle and practice). Sealing of marriages are currently done according to worthiness of couple and ratification of the Holy Spirit of Promise. It is anticipated that a practice in the temple in Zion will include a sealing ordinance of the couple. Priesthood Ordination is currently covered by instruction in print written by Denver Snuffer. My recommend would be that the heads of this instruction be written for inclusion in the scripture body.
With this criteria applied to the D&C and the P’sofGP perhaps we can whittle down a mass of inappropriate gobble-de-gook to a manageable assortment of information which supports a Covenant with the Lord. Keep the history in the history books, Denver’s principles for running fellowships in Preserving the Restoration, and put all personal revelation which has no applicability across the board in your own journals, or in an archive somewhere. I think here, for us, at this time, in regards to a promised Covenant, less amounts to more.