worth of souls
Week 09 is scheduled for study Feb. 22-28, 2021. This week we have five days of lessons, in addition to the personal study section. Each and every day’s lesson is a cause for joy, for we discuss the worth of souls.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-16 – The Lord rejoices when we repent.

The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given in response to specific circumstances nearly 200 years ago, but the principles they teach are timeless. Look for these principles as you read, and consider how they apply to you.

I would like to try to make a point here, and I hope I am successful in my effort. Here is Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-14. As you read these verses please look for the reason Christ suffered for our sins.

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.

13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!

14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.

In verse eleven he tells us that he suffered for each of us so that we could repent and come to him. It is important to remember that there is no repentance possible without the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. The whole point of that sacrifice was to make it possible for mankind to be able to repent. Without his sacrifice we would all have been damned and cut off from God forever. Repentance is only possible because of his sacrifice for us.

Verse thirteen tells us that the reason he suffered was because he takes such joy in the soul that repents. This is what fueled his ability to withstand the pain and suffering that had to be endured on the night of his eternal payment for all our sins. He was looking forward in faith to the reunion and eternal joy to be found in the company of all those who would repent of their sins and take advantage of their opportunity to change and become like him. He was giving his life, at the command of his Father, to lay down his life for his brothers and sisters. But his sacrifice had to be for all of them, not just for those who would accept his suffering and repent so they could come to him and be saved. His had to be a complete and eternal sacrifice for all.

Personal repentance may be painful, like Christ’s sacrifice was painful, but on a greatly reduced scale. The result of our suffering is joy, for repentance enables change that brings happiness, peace, and spiritual and emotional contentment. Jesus did not suffer so that we would suffer. He suffered so we wouldn’t have to suffer like he did, but we could still enjoy the benefits of the changes we need to make in order to prepare to return to our Father in Heaven. He had to suffer to enjoy the fruits of our repentance, our company and association for eternity. We repent and suffer for the same reason.

When he tells us in verse fourteen that we are all called to cry repentance to this people, he isn’t telling us to do something he, himself hasn’t already done. We only have to call others to repentance. He suffered all of the pains and anguish of every one of God’s children so each of them would have the opportunity to repent and find happiness in repentance. We are only being told to call our brothers and sisters to repent so they can find that happiness repentance offers each and every one of us. So between Christ and each of us, who is making the greater sacrifice?

As an interesting side note, look back at those verses and see if the joy Jesus says he will receive in the repentance of one soul is any more than the joy we will each receive in the repentance of one soul we help to come to repentance. As I read it, the wording is the same in both cases – how great will be our joy.

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-36 – I can hear the Lord’s voice in the Doctrine and Covenants.

The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given in response to specific circumstances nearly 200 years ago, but the principles they teach are timeless. Look for these principles as you read, and consider how they apply to you.

We are taught in the Church that the Father declared that Jesus Christ is the only name under the heavens by which men can be saved. In granting the title of Savior and Redeemer to Jesus, our Father gave him to us as His intermediary during this part of our journey away from home. And Jesus will remain our intermediary until we have returned home. What happens to that relationship after that time I do not know, though Jesus will always remain our Savior, for no one else could do what he has done for us.

In the Book of Mormon Jacob teaches us that the Holy Ghost speaks the words of Christ, and that angels speak the words of Christ they receive from the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 32:3).

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

See a pattern here? If we receive a revelation from the prophet, those words are the words of Christ, either because Christ, himself told the prophet or the Holy Ghost revealed Christ’s words to him. If an angel comes to you and tells you a message from God, he is speaking the words of Christ given to him from the Holy Ghost. When you are prompted by the Holy Ghost, he is giving you the words of Christ. All heavenly communication we receive are the words of Christ, whether written or through visits, or promptings. Christ directs this work. No one acts independently of Christ. His is the only name under heaven by which salvation can come. So when we read the scriptures, we read the words of Christ. Are not all of these methods his voice, his words?

So each of us has heard the voice of Christ in one form or another. Most of us may not have heard the physical voice of Christ, but as Jesus teaches us “… whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). So it doesn’t matter how we receive his words, as far as Christ is concerned, the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, or his prophets, are his voice to us. They are all one and the same, and we will be held accountable for those words, no matter what form they take.

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-20 – Jesus Christ suffered so that I can repent and come unto Him.

The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given in response to specific circumstances nearly 200 years ago, but the principles they teach are timeless. Look for these principles as you read, and consider how they apply to you.

I heartily recommend you read and do what the manual suggests as the activity for today’s lesson. It is an important personal exercise in finding a deep and abiding understanding of, and gratitude for, the Savior’s experience in Gethsemane. That being said, my comments below have nothing to do with the manual’s recommended activity, but are a reflection of the actual words found in these verses.

As you read the first two verses of this passage, think about how it makes you feel. Physically check to see what feelings you have in your mind and in your body as you are threatened with severe suffering.

15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

When I read these two verses my first reaction is to recoil. This is some harsh punishment for not being willing to repent. Why such strong terms? What does he mean when he says our punishment will be exquisite and sore? I feel very uncomfortable when I contemplate that as being a reality I might have to face in my life. I have to think back and wonder if I have ever experienced anything even close to this kind of punishment from God in my life. For some of us the answer is yes, we have had an inkling of this kind of suffering. It happens if we have violated the commandments and are deprived of the use of our priesthood blessings and the Spirit withdraws from our life. It can be terrifying to be left completely to our own thoughts when we have had years of experience of living with the loving presence of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Do we think God is really serious about this threat of punishment? Are his descriptions just there to jolt us into wanting to repent? Does he ever make an empty threat? Is that even in his character to do so? What do the scriptures teach us of the state of the righteous and the state of the wicked come the day of judgment? We are told over and over again that we are all free to choose eternal happiness or eternal damnation and misery. None of us would consciously and deliberately choose eternal damnation, as we understand it. But isn’t that exactly what we do when we “set at naught” the commandments of God? Isn’t that what we are choosing when we put other priorities in front of our prayers, scripture study, and our obedience to the directions given to us from the servants of God? Doesn’t our lack of enthusiasm to serve others also openly declare our lack of concern that we might not be worthy or prepared to receive eternal life, the kind of life God lives?

Here is verse twenty.

20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.

To recap this verse: we must repent and confess our sins or God will have to humble us with His almighty power, and we will suffer the punishments of which He has spoken. Martin Harris, to whom these verses were originally directed, was told that he had only received even the smallest taste of this punishment of which God refers to when the Lord withdrew his Spirit from Martin for a time.

For those of us who have spent many years in the church and kingdom of God, we may not remember or know what life is actually like for the rest of the world. Those outside of the covenants of the priesthood are only occasionally visited by the Spirit. It is those who live from hour to hour with the gift of the Holy Ghost who are perpetually influenced by the peace that comes from the Spirit of God. I have spoken with those who have suffered excommunication, and their description of the hell they endured without the Spirit in their lives makes me shiver. The Lord says this is only a small taste of what we will have to endure if we don’t choose to repent and live according to the laws of happiness God has given us, which He has given to us by way of the commandments and the priesthood covenants.

We can treat them as lightly as we wish today, for we are free to do so. But all of us will have to face that final day of judgment when we are called to answer for the use of our agency in mortality. Those who have been frivolous with this grand gift, or have treated it with contempt, for whatever reason, will face what Christ describes in these verses. Only those who have recognized the value of our agency and the preciousness of God’s help in our lives and have worked tirelessly to better themselves while away from our heavenly home will be rewarded with the eternal happiness God wishes to give to all His children.

Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 19:26-27, 34-41 – God’s blessings are greater than the treasures of the earth.

The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given in response to specific circumstances nearly 200 years ago, but the principles they teach are timeless. Look for these principles as you read, and consider how they apply to you.

I want to say that today’s lesson has some profound truths in it, but I am finding that this thought is becoming very repetitive. I am consistently being surprised at the number of profound truths being revealed to me in these lessons. And this isn’t my first rodeo with the Doctrine and Covenants. Perhaps I am finally reaching a state where I am prepared to begin receiving the blessings of its truths.

Martin Harris was a prosperous and notable citizen in the area in which he lived. He had a lot of land, and was well-to-do. His wealth brought with it a degree of notoriety and prestige. He was willing to part with some of the value of his land to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon, but the needs of the kingdom required that a far greater sacrifice be made. In these verses the Lord is requiring of Martin that he sell all of his land, except that which he minimally needs to support his family. As far as I know this is the first time in this dispensation that God required anyone to literally give his all for the building up of the kingdom. The church wasn’t even organized yet, but Martin was being commanded to reduce his wealth down to survival levels for the sake of God’s work.

So what? What does God’s requirement of Martin have to do with us. We probably aren’t wealthy farmers. Many of us reading these words may have never even set foot on a farm. Let’s look past the physical circumstances of this story to the principle behind what is happening between Martin and the Lord.

Martin is being asked to put God ahead of the world in his priorities. He has already attained many of the accolades and comforts of the world, and the Lord is asking him to give them up for the welfare of His own work for the peoples of the world. Have we seen any examples in the scriptures like this before? Has the Lord ever asked anyone to give up the pleasures and comforts of the world to bolster His work in the saving of souls? What about when Christ spoke to the rich young ruler and told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor? What about when He told Lehi to just walk away from all of his worldly possessions so He could take him and his family to a promised land? How about when the Lord told the Israelites to leave the only life they or their ancestors had ever known, even though they had only known slavery, to take them out in the harsh and unforgiving desert to lead them to a promised land?

The Lord does not make this kind of demand just on special families or special peoples. He makes this demand on each and every one of us. We all have something different to forsake in order to come to Christ as we need to. For some it will be worldly wealth, for others we will need to give up being one of the proud poor. Still others will need to learn to trust God more than themselves, and for others there will be physical challenges or emotional challenges that will bring them down into the depths of humility. All of us will have a Martin Harris type of experience in our life. We will all have to face that decision where we either walk away from the demands our covenants require, or we will find the resolve and dedication to God to put Him first and do whatever it takes to be obedient to Him, even if it requires our life, our fortune, our reputation, and our personal comforts. This is what I have learned in today’s lesson.

Day 5

Doctrine and Covenants 19:23 – Peace comes from learning of Jesus Christ and following Him.

The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given in response to specific circumstances nearly 200 years ago, but the principles they teach are timeless. Look for these principles as you read, and consider how they apply to you.

I recommend reading this article on meekness, since this verse specifically mentions that we need to become meek. Meekness is often a misunderstood virtue that we all need to acquire.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 18:21-25 – The importance of a name

Taking upon us someone else’s name is a process by which we become a part of another’s family by relation. When a woman changes her name to that of her husband’s, she becomes, legally, part of his extended family. And as an aside, though he doesn’t legally take her name, emotionally and socially he should become just as much a part of her family. But with the new name come privileges and responsibilities. As a member of the family you are entitled to an inheritance, just like all the naturally born children. The reputation of the family is now reflected in your name and your behavior, and all your posterity will belong to that family identity.

When we are baptized, we take upon us the name of Christ, the only name given by the Father through which any of His children can be saved. We covenant with God to learn of Christ, emulate Christ in our lives, and obey the commandments he gives us so we can return to God. Taking upon us the name of Christ is not something that should be done lightly, for God will hold us responsible for our behavior by new standards after we are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. We are now one of the members of Christ’s kingdom on earth. He becomes our master and our Savior. The rest of our life needs to be devoted to learning of his ways and trying to become more and more like him.

We may not have been raised in a culture where there are masters and servants, but when we make the covenant to take upon us the name of Christ, he literally becomes our master. Our responsibility is to follow his will and do his bidding, to wait upon his timing, and to take his censure when he feels we need it. We must become humble and meek, and obedient to his commandments. This is what is required of us to become the kind of people who will be prepared to live in the celestial kingdom. Without our covenants and the obedience they require, we will never have the ability to make the changes in our life that are required to enable us to live with God again. This is not enslavement, unless you consider throwing off the shackles of addictive habits and behaviors a bad thing. Binding ourselves to Christ through covenant is the process through which we free ourselves to be fully blessed with the joy and happiness enjoyed by God, Himself.

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The Worth of Souls Is Great

Week 09