The scriptures talk about servants in the last days that will gather Zion and prepare for the return of Christ. Many often speculate on the identity of these servants. Speculation, however, is unnecessary. The Doctrine and Covenants make it clear who these servants are. The only question is, do we believe the promises in the Doctrine and Covenants?
D&C 1:1-6, 7-19, 37-38
D&C 84:1-4, 32, 61-72, 114-119
I haven’t listened to the entire episode yet, but I wanted to correct Searcher on who the six elders were with Jospeh in section 29. I used to think they were the same as Section 1 as well, until I found this…
“The headnote in the Book of Commandments states that section 29 is, ‘a Revelation to the church of Christ, given in the presence of six elders, in Fayette, New York 1830.’ The minutes of the second conference of the Church (26 September 1830), found in the ‘Far West Record,’ list six elders present in addition to Joseph Smith: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Samuel H. Smith, and Thomas B. Marsh. These six men are undoubtedly the same six referred to in the headnote.” (Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 41.)
Another significant piece is that section 84 was given on two different days, September 22-23. On September 21, verses 1-41 were given to Joseph and six elders. On September 23, verses 42-120 were given to Joseph and ten others. This is significant, because there were 10 who were given the highest priesthood.
I’m not sure who the others were. I have a note that the six were the “Friends of God”, namely: Oliver Cowdery, Samuel H. Smith, Hyrum Smith, David Whitmere, Peter Whitmere, John Whitmere and Thomas B. Marsh.
This topic of the return of Joseph to redeem the vineyard is something I have been keyed into for many years (based on D&C 103:21). The question I keep hoping to have answered is whether anyone can determine whether Joseph will be identifiable as Joseph when he does so. We already have the example of Christ appearing after his death where he was not recognized until he revealed himself. We also have had an interesting discussion here about Elijah/John the Baptist, indicating that servants can be operating in plain sight without being identifiable to people as such, and may have had a previous mortal life, being born again into mortality for a second mission. Even Christ told his disciples in JST Matt 23:29/JS-Matt 1:1 “ye shall not see me henceforth and know that I am he of whom it is written by the prophets, until ye shall say: Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, in the clouds of heaven, and all the holy angels with him. Then understood his disciples that he should come again on the earth, after that he was glorified and crowned on the right hand of God.” This indicates that even Christ can be among the servants, working unrecognized in the vineyard.
In order to recognize the servants when they are among us may require seeing current events with an eye of faith and a knowledge of the scriptures. I am not as sure as MD and Searcher that we have not heard the voice of thunderings and lightnings and tempests and the voice of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds (as a category 4/5 hurricane is pummeling the Bahamas while you are speaking). Do you think all these things will happen to everyone at the same time? In the days we live in, we can be aware of things happening almost anywhere in the world. I am not saying that natural disasters will not intensify, and even become more catastrophic than we have previously seen, but every life lost is a person who cannot repent. These are messages of repentance and an invitation to love the strangers in their time of need.
Since the last election for US President, we have had hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and earthquakes. The weak and powerless people throughout the world have begun to push back again their slave-masters, and if you are paying attention to what is happening beyond national headlines, there has been a major effort to shut down human trafficking, to set captives (federal prisoners with excessive sentences) free, and to give them a fair chance for a new life with decent jobs at a living wage. On a literal level, the law is being bound up, and the testimony sealed, if you happen to notice the numbers of sealed indictments that have been filed across the country in the past couple years, waiting for their day of judgment. God despises inequality and the day of wrath is coming for those who have been a law unto themselves and have ground the face of the poor. We have had so many blood moons in the past few years that they are almost commonplace now, and the total solar eclipse which crossed the US August 21, 2017 will be followed by another on April 8, 2024. It seems to me that we are getting plenty of signs in the heavens and the earth to be watching very carefully how the Lord is working in our day. I might even mention that a “Trump” is sounding “long and loud, and all nations … hear it.”
Now, I could be totally wrong about any of these things being the specific signs we are told to watch for, but at least to me, they represent a possibility that the servants discussed in this podcast are either already at work, or are coming shortly. We know from history that there needed to be a political climate favorable to the restoration of the gospel in the early 1800s. It appears to me that there is something happening on a worldwide political level that may be setting the stage for the preaching of the gospel throughout the world as the servants labor in the vineyard to bring about good fruit for the harvest of souls.
I’m not aware of scriptures that tell us if we will recognize him or not. You could look at Isaiah 52:14, where it says the servant’s “visage was so marred more than any man.” The Hebrew can be translated as corrupted, or disfigured. Perhaps that was Isaiah saying he would just look different, vs. having facial deformities. But it’s not something I would put a lot of confidence in.
I think that leads to a key reason why we don’t know. If we just told ourselves, “I’ll wait until Joseph shows up and then do whatever HE says!” we’re not putting our faith in Christ, but we’re back to prophet worshiping. Perhaps we won’t recognize him so that we have to evaluate the message independent of the messenger.
As for current events, it does appear that God is beginning to turn up the volume. But I think we’re only at about a 4, and the Lord is going to turn it up to 11.
87 For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig tree.
88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.
89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
I agree that (I think) we are seeing the beginning of the slaves rising up against their masters who are marshaled for war. Hong Kong is a poster child for that.
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.
5 And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.
6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
Wow! Thank you everyone. This comment only speaks to the point that we get taught stuff that isn’t right and have a hard time getting past that, as these podcasts prove over and over. I have just been reading The puremormonism blog on the law of the land. We might believe that we must abide by “the law of the land” but those words had a vastly different meaning in Joseph’s lifetime. I’m pointing this out in support of what you have taught. I also would appreciate you spending a few minutes on this sometime because I doubt many people will get back to that six year old blog. Thank you, Jim
Jim, that law of the land article stays with you. I didn’t know what keelhauling was until I read that. Yeesh.
Thanks for another podcast. I love what you do. This topic, however, I have many more problems with than others… And it’s not because I don’t believe the scriptures… I still find it to be too giant of a leap to say that Joseph and his brethren will to finish their work. To believe so based on several assumptions. #1 – that these were prophecies of the Lord given specifically about these servants. #2 – that the promises given them we’re unconditional. #3 – that they were Choosen rather than merely called. #4 – that there’s precedent for the Lord sending servants again in this fashion.
There’s surely more assumptions being made here than what I’ve listed.
Now, I’m certainly not going to out the Lord in a box, by saying thisn CAN’T or WON’T happen, but we also shouldn’t put the Lord in a box by thinking we’ve figured out the mystery of his end times “strange work”… For me, there are just too many revelations given to Joseph that say, in effect, that if he (or the brethren) transgress, then the work will be given to another. You guys admit that it’s likely Joseph may have transgressed and fallen to a degree… Is it completely unlikely that he lost his Calling and was no longer Choosen – even through his own transgression, or the transgression of his people??? Think of Moses, and the Israelites… Did the Lord intend to lead them out of Egypt in order to have their entire generation die in the wilderness? No, obviously not… Did this indicate failed prophesy? No! But they transgressed and did not live up to their calling.
Did not the same thing happen to us? And yes, Joseph was Called to be the “one like Moses” to redeem Zion. But was he then Choosen? Or will another “One Mighty and Strong” fulfill this role, fulfilling prophecy given to Joseph that if there is transgression, he would be removed?
Perhaps it will be an Elijah /John the Baptist scenario… But that is a mystery we aren’t likely to grasp. I just don’t see any precedent in scripture for an”Return” of a specific set of servants the way you are speculating.
It’s understandably a concept that shouldn’t be accepted without significant searching, pondering, and praying. And we should all make sure we don’t close our minds to other possibilities, even the possibility that Joseph won’t return. The next episode will provide more scriptural support. But you brought up whether Joseph was “chosen”. Here are a few scriptures to ponder about that.
D&C 29:4, a revelation to Joseph Smith and 6 elders, September 1830
Verily, I say unto you that ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump.
On June 6, 1831, at the Morley Conference where the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored and God appeared to some of the attendees, God said:
Behold, thus saith the Lord unto the elders whom he hath called and chosen in these last days, by the voice of his Spirit
Then, a few months before the Kirtland temple experience, after the church had been downgraded and new apostles chosen, the Lord said:
Wait patiently until the solemn assembly shall be called of my servants, then you shall be remembered with the first of mine elders, and receive right by ordination with the rest of mine elders whom I have chosen.
Whether it’s Jospeh or not, one thing is clear from JST Matt 13:37-42 is that here will be angels and messengers on the earth before Jesus returns.
37The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked.
38The enemy that sowed them is the devil.
39The harvest is the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked.
40The reapers are the angels, or the messengers sent of heaven.
41As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world, or the destruction of the wicked.
42For in that day, before the Son of Man shall come, he shall send forth his angels and messengers of heaven.
Yes, I agree there will be gatherers to fulfill the last great harvest spoken of in Jacob 5. This likely will be taking place during great turmoil and upheavel. Yes, I do believe Joseph was a Choosen vessel. However, I have a hard time believing that the mighty work and a wonder / strange act / work of the Father was uniquely his Choosen work… It would seem to me that Joseph was the Elias, doing the preliminary restorative work among the gentiles. And that next will come the Elijah, with a greater power from on high to physically gather and save Israel. Then lastly will come the Messiah, with the power to redeem them spiritually.
Out of curiosity, what is your existing belief that contradicts the idea of Joseph returning? I think that MD and Searcher assumed that it was church members’ existing understanding about resurrection that would make this a difficult topic to consider, which is why they started the discussion with that topic, but maybe it is something else. Here are a few possibilities I have had to consider:
If Joseph did fall, what is so special about him doing this specific work instead of someone else?
Are multiple mortal probations possible for any or all people prior to the last final Judgment day?
If, hypothetically, Joseph is going to return, is it as a mortal, resurrected being, or in some other state we haven’t considered?
If there are chances given to finish work in another life time/generation, is some narrow form of “reincarnation” possible (not including coming back as anything other than human)? (FYI, my concept of “reincarnation” incorporates the idea that this life very much affects any future rebirth. It isn’t at all the idea that you can do whatever you want with no consequences (ie. Groundhog Day). After all, “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, … will have power to possess your body in the eternal world” (Contrast that with returning to God and sitting down in his kingdom to go no more out. (Alma 34:33-36)
If rebirth is possible, so that everyone can have a chance to be judged in the flesh, why do we spend so much time and effort doing the work for dead people who may be able to do it for themselves before Judgment day?
Can God really do “some new thing” that doesn’t have a pattern in the scriptures, or is that why JST leaves clues about Elijah/John the Baptist for those who are looking?
Personally, I am intrigued by the Buddhist concept of a “bodhisattva”. My understanding of this is a person who has achieved enlightenment, the result being the opportunity to exit the continuing circle of birth/death. However, these individuals choose to return to life so they can facilitate the enlightenment of others. Obviously, this idea is foreign to western Christians of almost any denomination, but I don’t think it is impossible. For example, is this what might be meant by D&C 76:59 “all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come”? This concepts flips on its head our idea that you only get one chance unless you are someone incredibly special to come back to Earth for a unique purpose.
Of course, if such a thing were true, it would make a mess of our idea of being sealed into eternal families, and the majority of what we teach about the plan of salvation. I kind of like it though, because it accounts for both the idea that “this life is the time to prepare to meet God” and that people who die without an opportunity to know the gospel of Christ will not be denied any blessing.
So, to return to my original question…what beliefs do you have that would conflict with the possibility of a Servant returning?
I’d love to chime in.
You said: “If rebirth is possible, so that everyone can have a chance to be judged in the flesh, why do we spend so much time and effort doing the work for dead people who may be able to do it for themselves before Judgment day?”
I think you’re on the right track of thinking, personally.
I think “baptisms for the dead” have nothing to do with the way the practice was implemented. Being baptized by proxy is not what Section 124 is talking about.
You also said, “The question I keep hoping to have answered is whether anyone can determine whether Joseph will be identifiable as Joseph when he does so. We already have the example of Christ appearing after his death where he was not recognized until he revealed himself.”
Again, I think you’re on the right track.
We shouldn’t be looking for angels. I mean, maybe. We can’t know for sure. It is my suspicion that the servants will be unidentifiable until we have accepted their message and scriptures they bring forth. I mused to Watcher–when I got the chance to meet him in person–that the servants might not even know they are the servants recorded in the D&C.
Watcher pointed out, however, that 2nd Nephi 3 explicitly states the one mighty and strong to be named Joseph, named after his father.
Notice how God says in the D&C: “Thou art Joseph.” (3:9)
Yet what if someone else–born with a different name today–receives a revelation stating the very same thing?
I think the reason it’s nearly impossible to find out the exact names of who the first laborers of the last kingdom are is due to the fact that we are not meant to be looking for specific people.
The test is going to be far more complex than I used to think.
A scripture that can help us: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Whoever takes Section 42, the law, seriously, are the only ones we can begin to scrutinize.
So far there hasn’t been a single professing prophet that speaks according to the law and the testimony (Section 76; receiving God’s fulness) so they clearly have no light in them.
I don’t recall it saying that the One Mighty and Strong would be named Joseph too. I always thought those were separate, the Seer and the One Mighty and Strong.
Verse 22 concludes Joseph of old’s prophecy and verse 24 seems to be Lehi’s prophecy about another one. I assumed they could be one in the same, but not conclusively that they were or that his name would be Jospeh.
My views might be similar to yours, and no they aren’t limited to the mainstream LDS view of resurrection and condescension. I do not have any views that cause me to reject the idea completely of Joseph returning in another condescension. However, I think that to suggest that we have enough evidence to say that he can be expected to return is still not convincing. I think most of the promises given to Joseph and the early brethren were conditional upon them establishing Zion in their generation. I think they rejected the fullness that was offered, and that the scriptures indicate that in that eventuality, the fullness would be offered (and more readily accepted) by the Jews / House of Israel after a season. How this will take place still seems a mystery (though I’m not convinced that it’s being done by the LDS missionary force)…
I agree with what G.azelem suggested, in that I think it’s unlikely that we are given to know the identities of the end times servants who will soon come to labor in the vineyard. If Joseph were to return, there would likely be very few who would be given to know his true eternal “identity”…
In regard to the “one mighty and strong”, I think D&C 113 is very instructive. It seems that two different end times servants are mentioned. These individuals will be both of the line of Judah and of Joseph. I think we have some reasons to believe that there will be at least one great end times servant who will be directly of American Indian origin. Whether D&C 113 and 2 Nephi 3 are talking about the same persons, or different people, I think it is unclear. It’s interesting that we are given to understand Joseph Smith to have been almost entirely of Joseph/Ephraim (though who really knows)…
In short, I think that multiple probations are plausible or even probable. I will admit that my working beliefs are largely shaped by the writings of an individual, whom I have met several times, who claims to have been to the throne room of heaven and ministered to by angels and by the Savior.
I believe that for most of us, the entire purpose of this life is to learn to submit fully to the Lord and then receive the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. When we do so, we are then “born again” and begotten spiritually of Christ and become his spiritual sons and daughters. It seems likely to me that most of us (especially those who covenanted with the Father premortally) have had multiple probations and will hopefully learn how to submit fully to Jesus Christ and receive this gift before the world is burned in the end times and takes on a terrestrial glory.
I also believe there are a limited number of “noble and great ones” (Abraham 3:22-26) who were chosen in the pre-Earth council because on a previous Earth they “having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling” (Alma 13:3). These reserved and “holy men that ye know not of” (D&C 49:8) are likely those who condescend multiple times with missions to bring souls to repentance and receive the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
So… with this special conference that’s supposed to happen next year (2020) during the bicentennial celebration of the First Vision, any chance the servants could return? It’ll also be an election year with a “president elect”, to name another reason.