Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Samuel the Lamanite, False Prophets and True

We read of Samuel the Lamanite, a non-Nephite prophet who came to the city of Zarahemla to preach the Gospel and warn the people of that city to repent.

And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord (Helaman 16:1).

And when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized. . . . Therefore as many as believed on the words of Samuel went forth unto him to be baptized, for they came repenting and confessing their sins. (Helaman 16:3, 5).

We are told that there were some who heard, believed in his words,  repented of their sins, but they did not go to Samuel to be baptized. Why not?

Joseph Smith taught an important principle regarding the bounds of priesthood authority.

"The angel told good old Cornelius that he must send for Peter to learn how to be saved: Peter could baptize, and angels could not, so long as there were legal officers in the flesh holding the keys of the kingdom, or the authority of the priesthood. . . . Jesus himself when he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus, did not inform him how he could be saved. He had set in the church first Apostles, and secondly prophets, for the work of the ministry, perfecting of the saints, etc.; and as the grand rule of heaven was that nothing should ever be done on earth without revealing the secret to his servants the prophets, agreeably to Amos 3:7, so Paul could not learn so much from the Lord relative to his duty in the common salvation of man, as he could from one of Christ's ambassadors called with the same heavenly calling of the lord, and endowed with the same power from on high—so that what they loosed on earth, should be loosed in heaven; and what they bound on earth should be bound in heaven."

[“Baptism,” Times & Seasons 3/21 (1 September, 1842): 905, reprinted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 264. Emphasis added].

Samuel the Lamanite was authorized to preach the Gospel, but he did not baptize and he did not bestow power and authority on those who repented and believed either. There was already a Church among the Nephites (Helaman 6:3-5) and a prophet with authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel (Helaman 10:4-10). Samuel spoke the truth and preached the message given him by an angel, but as a true messenger from God he did not and would not interfere with the established order of the Church in taking upon himself to work of baptizing among the Nephites without further authorization when there were already authorized ministers such as Nephi who could administer that ordinance. As a true messenger from God Samuel would not have done so without authorization from Nephi who presided over the Church at this time. This is why full time missionaries today act under Apostolic direction and also work to coordinate with local Church leaders in the work of teaching and baptizing those who receive the Gospel.

For Latter-day Saints, this principle is particularly important. Joseph Smith received authority from God and sacred priesthood keys from angelic messengers sent from heaven. The Church and keys of the Kingdom are to remain on the earth until the return of the Lord at his second coming (D&C 13:1; 27:12-13, 16; 42:69; 90:2-5; 112:30-32).

In another early revelation the Lord taught:

Again, I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church (D&D 42:11).

Authorized ministers are known to the Church through the principle of common consent (D&C 20:63, 67, 84), and it is given to the Twelve Apostles "to ordain and set in order all the other officers of the Church" or direct that such be done (D&C 107:58). These revelations are a guide and a protection given to members of the Church to help us avoid being deceived by those who falsely claim authority.

Orson Hyde, who was present at the first meeting of the School of Prophets in Kirtland Ohio remembered the following incident which is instructive and warns against the claims of false prophets:

"The occasion which called forth this testimony upon this matter was as follows:–One Francis G. Bishop, an Elder in our church, was very anxious to be ordained a High Priest, but he was not considered a proper candidate to fill the office at that time; and his urgent solicitations to be promoted to the High Priesthood, confirmed the Saints in the opinion that he wanted a high station without meriting it, or without being called by the Spirit of God to that work. He was sent forth into the world to preach in capacity and calling of an Elder; but he was not long out before he declared himself to be a High Priest–and that he was ordained from heaven. This made much stir in the branches of the church and also in the world. But when the news of his proceedings reached the prophet Joseph, he called Bishop home forthwith. He was introduced into the school of the prophets, and there closely questioned upon his course. He said he was ordained by an angel to the High Priesthood; yet, on a more close examination, he crossed his own testimony and statements–became confused, and blushed with shame and guilt–he fell down upon his knees and confessed that he had lied in the name of the Lord–begged to be forgiven and cried aloud for mercy. We all forgave him, but we could not give him our confidence, for he had destroyed it. Elder Sidney Rigdon was present at that meeting, and though he has since fallen, still he knows that my statements are correct. Zebedee Coultrin was also present, and many others that I might name. Brother Joseph observed to Bishop that he knew that he had lied before he confessed it; that his declarations were not only false in themselves, but they involved a false principle. An angel, said Joseph, may administer the word of the Lord unto men, and bring intelligence to them from heaven upon various subjects; but no true angel from God will ever come to ordain any man, because they have once been sent to establish the priesthood by ordaining me thereunto; and the priesthood being once established on earth, with power to ordain others, no heavenly messenger will ever come to interfere with that power by ordaining any more. He referred to the angel that came to Cornelius and told Cornelius to send for Peter; but if there had been no Peter with keys and power to administer, the angel might have done it himself; but as there was, the angel would not interfere. Saul was directed to go to Ananias for instruction and to be administered to by him; but if there had been no Ananias with power and authority on earth to administer in the name of Christ, the Lord might have done it himself. You may therefore know, from this time forward, that if any man comes to you professing to be ordained by an angel, he is either a liar or has been imposed upon in consequence of transgression by an angel of the devil, for this priesthood shall never be taken away from this church. If men would regard the testimony of the servants of God who have laid down their lives for the cause, they would have little fear of being misled; but when the spirit of apostasy takes possession of a man’s heart, he becomes completely blind to every true principle and is filled with strife, debate, deceit, false accusation, and treachery. He cherishes no desire to convert and save the world, but is content to confine his operations to the church, which he slanders, defames, and, like a ravening wolf, tries to tear in pieces and destroy; and having no merit of his own to bring him into notice, he seeks to obtain notoriety by contention and debate, which the Lord declares are not of him but of the devil. Their hearts being a fountain of evil, they can speak nothing but evil; they being disciples of the “accuser of our brethren,” can do nothing but accuse the brethren like their master whom they serve; they, having a beam in their own eyes, can see nothing but the mote in their brother’s eye; and well did the Saviour ask such characters, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” They are like the filthy and indelicate bird that has no relish for sweet and wholesome meat, but likes to feast on tainted flesh and putrid carcases.

[Orson Hyde], “Although Dead, Yet He Speaketh: Joseph Smith’s testimony concerning being ordained by angels, delivered in the school of the prophets, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the Winter of 1832-3,” Millennial Star, 8/9 (20 November 1846): 138-39. Emphasis added].

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