“Be Not Deceived, but Continue in Steadfastness”
Lesson 24 – D&C 26; 28; 43:1-7; 50; 52:14-19
Our history shows that some early Church members apostasized for various reasons, including a misspelled name. Our study in this lesson will help us understand how to avoid individual apostasy.
In the early years of the Church, some members were deceived and fell into apostasy, rebelled against God and the Prophets, and became enemies of the Church and their former fellow saints, and joined in the persecution of the saints in both Ohio and Missouri. Saints today must avoid following Satan’s deceptions.
D&C 50:2-3 and 2 Nephi 2:18, 27 remind us that Satan seeks to overthrow us and make us as miserable as he is. We are also reminded that we are free to choose to follow him if we so desire. The following are some of Satan’s temptations that could and would lead us into apostasy:
· Not recognizing the prophet as the source of revelation for the Church: False prophets temporarily deceived some early members—In 1830, Hiram Page, one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, was supported by Oliver Cowdrey, the Whitmers, and others when he claimed to receive revelations about the building of Zion and the order of the Church through a stone that he possessed. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated that Page’s claims, “were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, as laid down in the New Testament, as well as in our late revelations” (History of the Church, 1:110). The Prophet’s prayers about the situation resulted in the reception of D&C 28, making clear that only the President of the Church has the right to receive revelations for the Church. The Lord instructed Oliver Cowdrey to inform Page that Satan had given the revelations he received. Bro. Page repented, renouncing the stone and all things connected with it.
· Pride: Members who erred because of pride included the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Thomas B. Marsh, and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Marsh violated an agreement with Sister Harris by keeping a pint of cream from each of her cow’s milk production instead of sending the entire contents to Sister Harris for the making of cheese. When the matter was referred to their bishop in Far West, it was determined that Sister Marsh was in error. The Marshes appealed to the high council and then the First Presidency, but the original decision was upheld that Sister Marsh had erred. Declaring that he would sustain the character of his wife and refusing to accept the righteous judgment of the brethren, Bro. Marsh soon turned against the Church and even falsely testified before Missouri officials that the Latter-day Saints were hostile toward the state of Missouri. Referring to this incident, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “What a very small and trivial thing—a little cream over which two women quarreled. But it led to, or at least was a factor in, Governor Boggs’ cruel exterminating order which drove the Saints from the state of Missouri, with all of the terrible suffering and consequent death that followed. The man who should have settled this little quarrel, but who, rather, pursued it, …lost his standing in the Church. He lost his testimony of the gospel” (Ensign, May 1984, 83). Nineteen years later, Bro. Marsh went to Salt Lake and asked for forgiveness and rebaptism. He wrote: “I began to awake to a sense of my situation; …I know that I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight.” He then described what he had learned: “The Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But O what have I lost?! Riches, greater riches than all this world or many planets like this could afford” (Ensign, May 1996, 7)
· Being critical of leaders’ imperfections: Simonds Ryder was a convert in 1831. When he later received a mission call, his name was misspelled as “Rider” in the letter. He “thought if the ‘Spirit’ through which he had been called to preach could err in the matter of spelling his name, it might have erred in calling him to the ministry as well; or, in other words, he was led to doubt if he were called at all by the Spirit of God, because of the error in spelling his name!” (History of the Church, 1:261) He later apostasized.
· Being offended: Becoming offended by the actions or words of other members is a common cause of inactivity and apostasy. As an example, when the Kirtland Temple was completed, many Saints gathered for the dedication. The seats filled quickly, and many people were allowed to stand, but even so, not everyone could squeeze inside. Elder Frazier Eaton, who had donated $700 for the temple, arrived too late and was not allowed inside for the dedication. Even though the dedication was repeated the next day for those who had been outside the first day, Bro. Eaton was unsatisfied and left the Church. (See George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, 11:9) If we are ever offended, the Lord has given counsel of what we are required to do in D&C 64:8-11 and 82:1—forgive! No exceptions!
· Rationalizing disobedience: Often, when members are in error and know it, they are tempted to excuse or defend their unacceptable behavior. Such rationalization is self-deception.
· Accepting the false teachings of the world: False ideas and philosophies accepted by some members include that God’s commandments are far too restrictive, that immorality is okay, and that worldly pursuits and riches are more important than family and spiritual responsibilities. Presiding Bishop H. David taught: “One of [Satan’s] insidious strategies is to progressively soften our senses regarding what is right and wrong. Satan would have us convinced that it is fashionable to lie and cheat. He encourages us to view pornography by suggesting that it prepares us for the real world. He would have us believe that immorality is an attractive way of life and that obedience to the commandments of our Father in Heaven is old-fashioned. Satan constantly bombards us with deceptive propaganda desirably packaged and carefully disguised” (Ensign, May 1993, 46)
Blessings and commandments from the Lord can help us remain valiant and avoid deception. The following are ways in which we can protect ourselves:
· Recognize the Lord’s appointed leaders of the Church: In the early years, many people claimed to have received revelations to correct the Church or the Prophet. The Lord revealed D&C 28 and 43 in response to such false claims and explained that the Prophet receives revelation for the Church and none other is appointed to do so. (See D&C 28:2, 6-7 and 43:1-3) President Joseph F. Smith taught: “The Lord has…appointed one man at a time on the earth to hold the keys of revelation to the entire body of the church in all its organizations, authorities, ordinances and doctrines. The spirit of revelation is bestowed upon all its members for the benefit and enlightenment of each individual receiving its inspiration, and according to the sphere in which he or she is called to labor. But for the entire Church, he who stands at the head is alone appointed to receive revelations by way of commandment and as the end of controversy” (Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, [1965-75], 4:270)
· Study the scriptures and know the doctrines of the Church: D&C 1:37 and 33:16. We can better discern the truth of ideas by comparing them to the doctrines in the “standard” works. President Harold B. Lee taught: “If [someone] writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard Church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, ‘Well, that is his own idea.’ And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams , 540-41). President Lee also taught: “If we are not reading the scriptures daily, our testimonies are growing thinner, our spirituality isn’t increasing in depth” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee,152).
· Recognize that the things of God will always edify us: D&C 50:17-24. Joseph Smith explained that in Kirtland, “many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; …many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn”. Concerned, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received D&C 50. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “There is no saying of greater truth than ‘that which doth not edify is not of God.’ And that which is not of God is darkness, it matters not whether it comes in the guise of religion, ethics, philosophy or revelation. No revelation from God will fail to edify” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 1:201-2)
· Apply the Lord’s pattern for protecting ourselves from being deceived: D&C 52:14-19 provides a pattern for avoiding deception and these verses mention characteristics of teachers who are “of God”.
Elder Carlos E. Asay, one of the Seventy, taught that the following actions can strengthen us in avoiding apostasy:
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