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The Making of a Universal Flood

Genesis 7:11 states that the universal flood began “In the six hundredth year of Noah's life … [when] all the fountains of the great deep broke[] up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” The fountains of the great deep were a subterranean ocean of water that burst forth based on physical laws and geologic conditions that were in place since the earth’s creation. This blog will explain the geologic conditions that made this earth a ticking timebomb until the flood occurred in the days of Noah. The earth formed through the process of accretion. Elder B. H. Roberts said: “I believe the account in the first chapter of Genesis could be safely accepted as the announcement of the general plan of creation, not only of our planet but of all worlds; and in it will be found ample scope for the belief that the earth came into existence, as our scientists insist, by the accretion of nebulous matter.” (B.H, Roberts, The Gospel and Man’s Relationship Deity, Roberts, 277-278) When physical matter came together by gravitational forces to form this earth it was a molten sea of magma on its first day because accretion generates tremendous heat. Then came the cold night after the first day and the magma ocean began to crystalize. Experiments by Norman L. Bowen in the early 1900’s determined that minerals crystallize at different temperatures. The igneous rock called “basalt” crystalizes at the high temperature of 1400̊ C (2,552̊ F). Thus, basalt‒the rock of the earth’s oceanic crust‒began to crystalize first on the earth’s surface in the cold night of the first day. As the earth cooled huge quantities of water were expelled from the magma to form a shallow ocean of water above the layer of hardening basalt. “Water vapor and carbon dioxide are the principal gases dissolved in magma. More than 90% of the gas emitted from hot magma is water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).” (W. Kenneth Hamblin, Earth’s Dynamic Systems, 10th ed., 84) On the second day of the earth’s creation the Lord said: “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and … Let it divide the waters from the waters; and it was done; And I, God, made the firmament and divided the waters, yea, the great waters under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.” (Moses 2:6-7) These verses describe the subterranean ocean that burst forth during the universal flood. (Gen 7:11) That subterranean ocean came to exist beneath the basaltic oceanic crust (3-6 miles thick) because the magma below that crust continued to cool and expel more water after the oceanic crust had formed a tight seal over the earth. Water has a density of 1 gram/cm3, while basalt has a density of 2.9 gram/cm3. Even though basalt weighs more than water, the water in the subterranean ocean couldn’t escape to the surface because the oceanic crust was a seal. The subterranean ocean was like the water inside a waterbed mattress. Heavy objects can “float” on top of the mattress as long as the plastic doesn’t rupture. When the mattress ruptures, however, the “great deep” bursts forth and the heavy objects on the mattress begin to sink. Since the time of the creation, the geology of the earth was inherently unstable‒heavy rock floating on water. It was only a matter of time before the basaltic layer of oceanic crust ruptured. When this occurred, the water of the subterranean ocean (i.e., fountains of the great deep) burst to the surface and covered the entire earth as the basaltic crust sank. For a more detailed discussion about the mechanics of the universal flood, see my podcast from June 15, 2024. https://youtu.be/Oo3srMS90_4

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The Seven Seals

In Revelation 5:1, John saw a book with seven seals, which symbolize the redemptive works of Jesus Christ during the earth’s temporal existence of 7,000 years. (D&C 77:6-7) The seals are opened in consecutive order to show how the purposes of God are executed in each of seven periods of 1,000 years. This blog provides an overview of the executed works of God in each of the seven seals as described in the Book of Revelation. Many theories abound as to the meaning of the seven seals. For example, Matthew Poole‒a Biblical scholar who lived during the Reformation‒said the events in all seven seals occurred during the period of the Roman Empire from the time of Christ to no later than 325 AD. This is obviously at odds with the scriptural definition found in Doctrine and Covenants 77:6-7, which tells us that the book with seven seals contain “the works of God … concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.” If the symbolism and timing of the seals are misunderstood, there is no way to properly understand and interpret the Book of Revelation. Events during the first four seals are depicted by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation 6:1-8. These “historical seals” cover the first 4000 years (approximately) from fall of Adam to the birth of Jesus Christ. This is consistent with the Bible chronology prepared by Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656). We cannot assume that every date in the Ussher chronology is precisely accurate, but Bruce R. McConkie validated the content generally, saying: “[T]he Biblical account of the chronology relative to Adam and his posterity is either correct or substantially so. The number of years there recited is either accurate or so nearly so that it does not make any real difference for our purposes.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 606) The contents of the seven seals can be summarized as follows: The white horse and rider in the first seal represent the ministry of the prophet Enoch in the period from 4000 to 3000 BC, when the city of Zion was translated and taken to heaven. The red horse and rider in the second seal represent the wars, bloodshed and death of many in the period from 3000 to 2000 BC, which includes the great flood in the days of Noah. The black horse and rider in the third seal represent the physical famines that were prevalent in the period from 2000 to 1000 BC, when Abraham was driven from the Ur of Chaldees and his Israelite posterity traveled to Egypt to avoid starvation. The pale horse and rider of the fourth seal represent the sickly spiritual condition of Israel in the period from 1000 BC to the birth of Christ as reflected by the wicked kings in the divided kingdom and 400 years of apostasy after the death of Malachi‒the last prophet of the Old Testament. The fifth, sixth and seventh seals are prophetic seals that depict events after the time of John’s vision in 96 AD. The fifth seal covers the period from Christ’s birth to 1000 AD. When this seal opened, John saw the images of martyrs slain in the period after Christ’s crucifixion. The sixth seal covers the period from 1000 AD to 2000 AD (and beyond). We live today at the very end of the sixth seal. The seventh seal lies in our future and is described by John in Revelation 8-21. This final seal includes events leading to the Second Coming, the millennium and beyond. For a more complete overview of the seven seals, check out my podcast from June 8, 2024. https://youtu.be/wCHnTOii3w4

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“Worthy is the Lamb” ‒ Revelation 5:12

Revelation 5 describes the images of John’s continuing vision of heaven in the postmortal spirit world called paradise. In this vision, Christ takes a book with seven seals from the right hand of God the Father. The book contains the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ throughout the earth’s temporal history. (D&C 77:6-7) When Christ takes the book from his Father, Christ is praised in a “new song,” which declares that he is “worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof.” (Rev 5:9) To say that Christ is worthy means he is empowered to carry out the redemptive works of God. Christ has the power of redemption because he was the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins. His sacrifice brought about the eternal and infinite atonement which makes possible our reconciliation to God. We are told that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10) Since the worth of souls is great, a very high price had to be paid for the redemption of those souls. In other words, in this transaction we call the atonement there is a direct correlation between the worth of the saved souls and the price that had to be paid by one who possessed the worth or worthiness to pay the price. In a free market system, the worth, price, or value of something is determined by what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree to in an arms-length transaction without any compulsion, and where each party acts prudently based on their complete knowledge of the facts of the transaction. When we apply this definition to determine the “fair market value” of the atonement, we should immediately recognize that the life and blood given up by Jesus Christ must be equal to the value of the objects he redeemed. Incredible as this may sound, you and I are worth the infinite price of Christ’s blood in the eyes of God. We sometimes beat ourselves up for our weaknesses, short-comings and imperfections. We may at times feel that we have very little self-worth. That’s not the take-away we learn from the value of the atonement where an infinite price was paid for our redemption. Remember that in a free-market, our value and worth must equal the price paid for our redemption. Our value is so great that God the Father “gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Note that in this transaction the price includes more than just the blood of Jesus Christ. The Lord expects you and I to have some “skin in the game.” In scriptural terms this means we are expected to contribute faith and obedience which increases our value in the transaction even as we recognize that “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne 25:23) The atonement is only fully efficacious for those who believe in Christ and come unto him. Marion G. Romney said: “The only persons who are thus forgiven and redeemed are those who accept and abide the terms prescribed by the Redeemer, thus bringing themselves, with respect to their own sins, within the reach of his atoning blood.” (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, “The Resurrection of Jesus,” April 1982, 9) Even though you and I bring very little “skin” into this transaction called the atonement, our small contribution is sufficient to equalize the value of our worth against the price paid for our redemption. “Worthy is the Lamb” recognizes that Christ brings to the atonement the true worth in this transaction for our benefit. The atonement is truly of infinite value because of his worth.

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The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

In Revelation 5:1, John saw God the Father holding a symbolic book with seven seals containing the plan of redemption for this earth during its 7000-year temporal history (D&C 77:6). John also saw and heard a “strong angel” ask: “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” That is, who possessed the moral qualifications, authority, and attributes to fulfill all requirements for the plan of redemption? This is a deja vue moment from the premortal council in heaven when the Father introduced the plan of salvation among his spirit children and asked: “whom shall I send?” (Abr 3:27) John searched for someone to open the book but “no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book.” (Rev 5:3) That is, there was no resurrected “man in heaven” that could open the book. No mortal “man in earth” could open the book. Finally, no disembodied spirit of a dead “man under the earth” could open the book. John wept because he found no “man” to carry out the plan of redemption which only a God could perform. Robert J. Matthews explained this, saying: “The reason why only a god could atone for sin and conquer death is that all mankind, being dominated by death, are powerless to escape it or to conquer it. Jesus was born as the Only Begotten of the Father in this mortal flesh so that he would have power over death.... Fallen man cannot redeem himself because his abilities are limited to the mortal sphere in which he lives, and salvation is not a condition natural to mortal law. Only a God–one not limited by or subject to mortal law–could lift man to a higher level and thus to a better life.” (Robert J. Matthews, Sermons and Writings of Robert Matthews, 221, 526) In Revelation 5:5, John was told to “weep not” because “the Lion of the tribe of Juda … hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. This imagery points to “his position as a descendant of Judah, to his membership in that tribe from which kings were chosen to reign, and also to show his status as the most pre-eminent of all that house, as the one who bore the banner of the tribe so to speak.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 449) The lion has been an emblem for tribe of Judah since the time that Jacob (Israel) pronounced patriarchal blessings upon his twelve sons. Jacob blessed Judah‒the fourth son of his first wife, Leah‒saying: “Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen 49:9-10) The name “Shiloh” means the peacemaker. Judah’s blessing meant that the lion-like tribe of Judah would have the kingly reign in Israel until the time a peacemaker came among them. Jesus came to earth in the meridian of time as the regal lion of the tribe of Judah, but because he came as Shiloh (the prince of peace), the Jews rejected him and the sceptre of kingly rule departed from Judah and passed to Ephraim‒the birthright son of Joseph (of Egypt). For more details about Jesus Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, check out my podcast from May 26, 2024. https://youtu.be/DQ_GVf8pSXE

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The 24 Elders Worship in Paradise

In Revelation 4, the 24 Elders represent the disembodied spirits of exaltation-worthy saints in the postmortal spirit world called paradise. In Revelation 4:10, they worship God the Father in three ways. They “fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne.” The three forms of worship correspond to the trisagion (“holy, holy, holy”) pronounced by the four beasts in Revelation 4:8. In their first form of worship, the 24 Elders fall down or prostrate themselves before God as an expression of great humility and reverence. In their second form of worship, they speak unspecified words of praise, probably in the form of a doxology giving God all “glory and honour and thanks.” (Rev 4:9) In their third form of worship, the 24 Elders cast their crowns before the throne to pay homage to God. In this way they also disclaim any honor or dignity for themselves and recognize that all glory, honor, and power belong to God. Dr. Richard Draper has suggested that the 24 Elders cast down their crowns as a sign of consecration, saying: “The Elders reverence their Creator by casting their crowns before him. In this way they acknowledge that their authority is delegated from God. The act of casting the crowns before the throne of God symbolizes the full devotion of the Elders to the law of consecration and stewardship. They act as stewards over their domain but consecrate all back to him.” (Richard Draper, Opening the Seven Seals, 50) I agree and disagree with Dr. Draper’s interpretation. His interpretation assumes that the 24 Elders worship in the celestial kingdom after they are resurrected and have received kingdoms, dominions, and principalities that can be consecrated back to the Father. If John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 4 was the celestial kingdom, then “yes,” this imagery could represent the consecration of all things back to the Father. Hyrum Andrus, a prolific writer in the Church, has described how the law of consecration operates in the celestial kingdom, saying: “In begetting sons and daughters in spirit birth and directing them through all the various experiences required to obtain exaltation in celestial glory, God administers to them the law of celestial union–the Law of Consecration and Stewardship. This law requires that they consecrate themselves and all they possess to Christ. Jesus, in turn, consecrates Himself and all He possesses to His Father, the Man of Holiness.... In this way, exalted man may establish and continue to expand his own patriarchal kingdom in eternity.... There are patriarchal kingdoms one above another in eternity, and intelligences exist one above another so that there is no end to them so far as present knowledge indicates. As the over-all patriarchal system moves upward, Elohim, the Man of Holiness, progresses in posterity, in dominion, and in glory.... When those who subordinate themselves to Him in truth consecrate themselves and all they possess to Him, His dominion and power are extended and His glory is increased.” (Hyrum Andrus, Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, 502, 509) In several podcasts and a prior blog I explain that Revelation 4 describes John’s vision of celestial paradise in the postmortal spirit world. In that context, the 24 Elders represent exaltation-worthy‒but unresurrected‒saints that have not yet received their kingdoms, dominions and principalities. Therefore, the casting down of their crowns in the worship of God is, as I have stated, an expression of homage to God, not a consecration of that which they have not yet received. Check out my podcasts From April 21, 2024, and May 11, 2024, where I discuss the paradisiacal context of John’s vision in Revelation 4. https://youtu.be/xxKZYHLlRNY; https://youtu.be/n_B0cDyyaUU.

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Four Beasts in Paradise‒Revelation 4:6

John had a vision of paradise and saw “four beasts” “in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne.” (Rev 4:6) These four beasts have perplexed many scholars and theologians. To begin with, their name is a misnomer. The Greek word “zoon” should have been translated as “living creatures” in contrast to the Greek word “therion,” which means a wild beast. The four living creatures were labeled as “four beasts” in John Wycliff’s first English translations of the Bible in the late 1300’s, and other translators followed suit. The four living creatures are antithetical to the symbolic beasts seen by John in other parts of the book of Revelation as symbolic agents in the kingdom of Satan on earth. We are fortunate to have the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the meaning of the “Four Beasts” in D&C 77:2, saying: “They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beasts, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air … and every other creature which God has created.” D&C 77:3 has another follow-up FAQ, which asked: “Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders? A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.” In short, the Four Beasts represent all of creation and there are four specifically to represent the four classes of creation that include humans, animals, plants and worlds. These four classes of creation are all “living creatures” that will be redeemed by atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus we see in Revelation 5:8-9 that “the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb…. And they sung a new song, saying … thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” All four classes of creation have living inward spirits to whom Christ’s redemption applies. Joseph Fielding McConkie said: “On the matter of the resurrection of animals Joseph Smith said: ‘Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you the revelations are not true’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 291). To argue for the existence of life forms that were not subject to Adam's fall is to argue at the same time that they are not redeemed through Christ's atonement. Such an argument places God in the awkward position of creating that which he does not have the power to save.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, 162) The Four Beasts were literally present in paradise at the time of John’s vision in 96 AD, but John’s description of them as a lion, calf, man, and flying eagle is highly figurative and symbolic. Since they collectively represent all four classes of creation in their “destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity” (D&C 77:3), one of the living creatures represents this earth and all other worlds of the mineral kingdom. Joseph Fielding Smith said: “The light of Christ.... is the life-giving, or quickening power of all things, worlds, the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, and man.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Seek Ye Earnestly, 43-44). Adam Clarke likewise wrote: “These creatures may be considered the representatives of the whole creation.” (Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke Commentary, Vol. 6, 990). For a further discussion of the four beasts see my podcast on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist for May 12, 2024. https://youtu.be/cQ2XoTmWvCM

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Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne

In Revelation 4, John had a vision of paradise in heaven, which means he saw the disembodied spirits of the just in the postmortal spirit world as they awaited their resurrection. While “in the spirit” (Rev 4:2), John saw the throne of God with lightnings, thunderings and voices continually emanating from the throne as symbols of God’s omnipotence, majesty and powerful judgments. An epistle of the First Presidency‒read at general conference in October 1886‒speaks of God’s judgments on earth in a latter-day context, saying: “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. And all things shall be in commotion; and surely men's hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people. Already His words upon this subject are being fulfilled. The elements are joining their voices with the voice of His Elders in testimony of the near approach of the end.” (quoted in James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 3, 91; see also D&C 88:89-91). The signs that John saw in heaven portend these latter-day judgments on earth. In Revelation 4:5, John also saw “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” The Joseph Smith Translation clarifies that the “seven Spirits” are the “seven servants” or local leaders from the seven churches of Asia described in Revelation 2-3. (See JST Rev 4:5 [“And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices; and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven servants of God.”]) Since their identify is known, we need only ask why these “seven lamps” are in John’s vision of paradise in the symbolic image of “burning lamps before the throne?” The seven servants burn like lamps because of the glory they enjoy in paradise as they await their resurrection. They are the disembodied spirits of just men made perfect. Hyrum Andrus describes “just men made perfect” as “those who, in mortality, are just and virtuous under the law of God; and having endured in the blessings and powers of the Gospel unto the end of their mortal probation, they are made perfect by receiving the endowments of truth and light (or divine intelligence) that constitute celestial glory. They receive these perfecting endowments in large measure as they enter the spirit world after death. For this reason, a revelation observed that the spirits of just men made perfect inherit celestial glory upon their departure from this life. (See D&C 129).” (Hyrum Andrus, The Glory of God and Man's Relation to Deity, 66) The glory of these “burning lamps” is more like a torch with a bright flame that envelops them. Joseph Smith spoke of them, saying: “The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, 52) The imagery of these seven burning lamps is best understood from the context of the “lightnings and thunderings and voices” of judgment in the same verse. As leaders of the seven churches in mortality, these seven lamps were “the light of the world” and “a city that is set on a hill.” (Matt 5:14) They served as a warning voice of God’s judgments that were to come and, having been a light to the world then, they shall also be witnesses to the world of the justice of God’s judgments.

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“Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”

Revelation 4 begins John’s prophetic visions in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 4:1-2, John looked “and, behold, a door was opened in heaven and the first voice … said, Come up hither…. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.” (Revelation 4:1-2) The Greek word thronos is used to describe a throne that is reserved for kings, gods, and absolute rulers. This symbolism is repeated at least forty times in the book of Revelation. The throne and the person on the throne are the central objects of John’s vision in Revelation 4 and 5. The original Greek manuscripts for the book of Revelation indicate that the throne in Revelation 4:1 was still in the process of being set when John first set his gaze upon it. However, most translations use the past verb tense to indicate that the throne “was set” at the time John first saw it. The Jerusalem Bible renders this passage: “a throne was standing in heaven.” The verb tense denotes that the throne was fully set as of the time John sets his gaze upon it, and yet there was some unfinished action. This perfectly describes what John saw through the open door of heaven as he saw the postmortal spirit world called paradise. (For a complete discussion of the meaning of heaven as “paradise,” see my blog from April 24, 2024; also my podcast on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist from April 21, 2024). In John’s vision, the throne is fixed, but the kingdom it represents is dynamic and ever-changing. In John’s vision of paradise in 96 AD, he saw a dynamic and growing kingdom of disembodied spirits of the just waiting for their resurrection to the celestial kingdom. John saw the fixed throne in paradise that was growing in size as righteous members of the seven churches died and their spirits entered paradise. He saw the numerical size increase as vicarious ordinances for the dead were performed on the eastern hemisphere as recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:29, and on the western hemisphere as recorded in the Book of Mormon. From these circumstances it makes perfect sense for John to describe the throne as “set” in paradise while, at the same time, the throne was being set as the kingdom it represented continued to grow and expand. God the Father is the one who sat on the throne. This symbolic image does not convey that the person of the Father was physically and literally on the throne. In fact, John does not describe the person of the Father at all, but only his glorified presence emanating from the throne as a jasper stone and a sardine stone in Revelation 4:3. The Father can only be in one physical location at any given time, but his presence can be felt everywhere‒including paradise at the time of John’s vision in 96 AD. The Lectures on Faith describe the Father as a “Being in whom all fulness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient” (Lectures on Faith, 9). Some scholars and theologians identify Jesus Christ as the person on the throne, but that cannot be true because Christ is separately identified as the Lamb of God who stands before the throne in Revelation 5:6-7. The presence of both the Father and the Son in paradise gives hope to all righteous saints who can look forward to the day when they will “Come up hither” as John did when he was in the Spirit in Revelation 4:1. https://youtu.be/xxKZYHLlRNY

Doorway into Heaven (Revelation 4:1)

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My podcast this week provides an overview of Revelation 4. This chapter begins when John saw “a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard … said, Come up hither.” (Rev 4:1) John had multiple visions of heaven in the Book of Revelation, so it’s important to understand the simplicity of what John saw in chapter 4 if we are to understand the complexity of what he saw in later chapters. Our analysis begins fundamentally with the question of what is heaven? In English, German, Hebrew, and Greek there is only one word for “heaven,” but it means different things depending on the context. The scriptures refer to a “new heaven and new earth,” which can mean terrestrial conditions at the start of the millennium or celestial conditions after the millennium when the earth dies and is resurrected. Various levels of “heaven” also exist, including “the third heaven” where Paul went hither in 2 Corinthians 12:2. The celestial kingdom is clearly heaven, but even in that sphere there are three different degrees of glory. (D&C 131:1-4) Finally, we have the postmortal spirit world where disembodied spirits of the just await their resurrection in a place called “heaven or paradise.” (See Dallin H. Oaks, CR, April 1995, 114 [“We believe in a heaven or paradise and a hell following mortal life.”]) I conclude that in Revelation 4 and 5, John saw paradise in the postmortal spirit world as of the time of his vision from Patmos in 96 AD, rather than the postmillennial celestial kingdom as it will exist after the earth dies and is resurrected. Several verses in Revelation 4 make this clear. Revelation 4:2 states that John was immediately in the spirit and “a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.” Since only the Father was sitting on the throne, this imagery comes before the Second Coming. After the millennium and celestialization of the earth, Christ will share his Father’s throne. (Rev 22:1-3) Revelation 4:4 describes 24 Elders dressed in white and sitting on thrones with crowns on their heads. This sounds like the celestial kingdom, but it is only paradise with conditions that mirror the celestial kingdom. We are told in D&C 77:5 that the 24 Elders represent the saints “who had been faithful in the work of the ministry and were dead; who belonged to the seven churches, and were then in the paradise of God.” Notice that the spirits of these dead saints were “then in the paradise of God” ‒ meaning in paradise at the time of John’ vision from Patmos in 96 AD. John not only saw the righteous dead in paradise, he provides a snapshot of what he saw at that moment in time. Revelation 4:6 states that “before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.” This image also sounds like the celestial kingdom. However, the sea of glass (paradise with conditions that mirror the celestial kingdom) sits before the throne. Since the throne is not in the midst of the sea of glass, this cannot describe the celestial kingdom. Finally, in Revelation 4:8, the four beasts mentioned above praised the “Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” This imagery necessarily precedes the Second Coming because the praise is for a God who is still “to come.” This cannot be a vision of the celestial kingdom after the earth dies and is resurrected because Christ will already have come‒past tense‒by that time. For a more detailed discussion of “heaven” in Revelation 4 and 5, see my podcast from April 21, 2024. https://youtu.be/xxKZYHLlRNY

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“I stand at the door, and knock.”

Revelation 3:20 reminded the spiritually lukewarm Laodiceans that Christ stood at the door of their hearts knocking for them to let him enter. It reminds me of trick or treating on Halloween as a teenager with my brother in Laramie, Wyoming. We’d stay out late and run from door-to-door with our pillowcases of candy in the hope and expectation of more and more treats at each door. If a door didn’t immediately open, we quickly moved to the next‒not sparing even a moment of time in the waning hours of the late evening. That doesn’t sound a lot like the image of Christ standing at a door and knocking in Revelation 3:20, but there’s a certain antithetical parallel between the two. In our Halloween experience, my brother and I knocked at each door expecting to receive a feast of treats and goodies in exchange for nothing. Christ, on the other hand, knocks at the door and tells us that “I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) Christ‒who is the guest‒becomes the host. He provides the meal which is the bread of life. (see John 6) His gift of eternal life is freely given to the homeowner who opens the door when Christ knocks. When Christ knocked at the door of the Laodiceans he stood at the door patiently. He was not in a hurry as my brother and I were in our Halloween marathon. However, doors that remain indefinitely closed to the Savior must at last be abandoned, leaving the occupants without the bread of life so freely offered. Keep in mind that Christ stands at a door that has no knob on the outside. He cannot open the door to our heart, just as he will not force himself into our lives. We must open our hearts from within. The image of Christ standing at the door in Revelation 3:20 coincides with a rather profound condemnation of the spiritually lukewarm Laodiceans who were neither hot nor cold in their devotion to Christ. He’s standing outside the door to their heart because they haven’t let him in. They know he’s knocking and why he’s knocking because he also speaks to them through the door in Revelation 3:16, saying “because thou art lukewarm [and refuse to let me in] … I will spue [vomit] thee out of my mouth.” The Laodiceans were not hard of hearing, but they were hard of hearkening. They refused to answer the door because their hardened hearts were calloused by uncaring emotions that often accompany worldly riches and pride. The image of Christ at the door is a message for the ages. He stands today at the door of every heart, and there are many kinds in the modern world. Not every heart is equally calloused and closed to the Savior. Some people hear the knock and want to open the door, but they don’t do so for a variety of reasons. Consider the potential disciple of Christ in Matthew 8:21-22, who was bidden to follow the Savior and said, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” Do you see the irony? Christ was knocking at the door of the disciple offering him eternal life and the derelict disciple responded by saying: “I can’t come to the door right now, I’m getting ready for a funeral.” Exactly right! It was the disciple’s own funeral because he was spiritually dead the moment he refused entry to the Savior. Spiritually dead people don’t answer the door when the Savior comes knocking. For more on the door to our heart, see my podcast from April 14, 2024 on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist. https://youtu.be/_O9T9TnRez0

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Calling and Election Sure

“I would thou wert cold or hot.” ‒ Revelation 3:15 In Revelation 3:15, the Savior rebuked the lukewarm saints in the city of Laodicea in Asia Minor, saying: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.” The spiritual apathy of Laodicean church members is a universal type for members of Christ’s latter-day church. The lukewarmness of the Laodiceans expresses a state of mediocrity, indifference, and slothfulness. They were spiritually lethargic. Bad as these things were, their lukewarm condition seems better than the alternative of complete coldness. Nevertheless, the Savior states emphatically that “I would thou wert cold or hot.” Obviously, the preferred condition is for all church members to be hot, fervent, and valiant in their testimony of Jesus Christ and their devotion to duty. It should be equally obvious, that Christ is not pleased with people who are cold in their religious practices or the lack thereof. He is not advocating cold, but why does he say that cold is preferrable to lukewarm? His statement seems counter-intuitive. These five explanations may be the rationale for his reasons: First, lukewarm Christians are comfortable and often complacent in their lives. This presents a real danger because they don’t even recognize that they have a spiritual problem. A person that is cold spiritually has the ability to at least recognize that they are uncomfortable and this can bring a desire to change. Second, a lukewarm condition is akin to hypocrisy. That is, lukewarm members of the church have an outward appearance of Christlike devotion, but the inward commitment is lacking. The Savior repeatedly criticized any and every form of hypocrisy, including the hypocritical fig tree that he cursed because it outwardly appeared to be fruit bearing, but was not. (Matt 21:19) Third, lukewarm saints make a mockery of their sacred covenants by not being valiant in their testimony of Christ and they live beneath their privilege to enter the celestial kingdom. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “We cannot survive spiritually with one foot in the Church and the other in the world. We must make the choice. It is either the Church or the world. There is no middle ground…. [Those] who do not take an affirmative courageous stand against the world, and in favor of the Church, shall go to the terrestrial kingdom…. Such persons are ‘lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot.’ (Rev. 3:14-18.]” (CR, “Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith,” October 1974, 44) Fourth, lukewarm saints are in a spiritual rut of indifference. They follow a path of least resistance that makes crooked rivers and crooked men. It takes energy to make water either cold or hot, and spiritually apathetic people refuse or fail to expend the spiritual energy to become committedly cold or hot. Joseph Fielding Smith said: “He that does nothing is good for nothing.” Decidedly cold people are passionate people with a misguided commitment to the wrong cause. The Lord can use these passionate people because their hearts can be changed. This was the case with the apostle Paul, Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah. Fifth, the commitment to be cold or hot is an exercise of agency, which lukewarm saints surrender through their apathetic inaction. Lukewarmness is not a choice and is not an exercise of agency. It is a lack of choice and a lack of commitment. This leaves lukewarm saints in a condition to be acted upon. This surrender of their agency must offend God deeply because a heavy price was paid by the atonement of Jesus Christ that we might always have this power in our lives. For more on the lukewarm Laodiceans, see my podcast on April 27, 2024 on Youtube@UnveilingJesusChrist. https://youtu.be/3tXE1uk6td0

Calling and Election Sure

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“I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation” ‒ Revelation 3:10 The saints in Philadelphia were commended for their good works and Christ promised them that “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation.” (Rev 3:10) This statement includes the promise of being sealed up to eternal life, which is also called “the more sure word of prophecy” and having one’s “calling and election made sure.” This “promise for patience” was critical in John’s messages of hope in the Book of Revelation. He used the word “patience” seven times in both ancient and modern contexts. (See Rev 1:9; 2:2-3, 19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12) Patience involves more than just enduring difficulties or suffering in silence. Saints seeking eternal life must be persistent in good works despite opposition. Patience is an integral part of the process of perfection. Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 67:13 makes this clear, saying: “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.” The Philadelphian saints‒and all others who keep Christ’s word of patience‒are promised that Christ will keep them from the hour of temptation (Rev 3:10). Note, however, that this verse is not a promise of exemption from temptation all together. Being kept from temptation and having no temptation at all are two very different things. This is illustrated in Christ’s intercessory prayer that he spoke on the eve of his crucifixion in John 17. In that prayer, the Savior said: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them [the disciples of Christ] out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15) Thus, we are left in the world, but not of world. We are subject to temptation, but cannot succumb to it. Christ’s prayer for eternal life in John 17 becomes his promise of eternal life to the Philadelphian saints in Revelation 3:10 because they kept the word of his patience. Doctrine and Covenants 101:38 reflects a similar promise for saints in the latter days, saying: “And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.” The promise or guarantee of eternal life comes with the assurance that patient people will be kept from temptation as expressed in Revelation 3:10. In 2 Peter 2:19, the apostle Peter calls this “the more sure word of prophecy.” D&C 131:5 explains the meaning of this phrase, saying: “The more sure word of prophecy means a man's knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood.” Peter also admonished the saints in his day to act with “diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The more sure word of prophecy is the same as having your calling and election made sure. Elder Bruce R. McConkie used this phrase, saying: “To have one's calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood.” (Bruce R. McConkie, DNTC, Vol. 3, 330) Once we make our calling and election sure we are, in the words of Revelation 3:10 kept “from the from the hour of temptation.” For more on this the unconditional promise of eternal life check out my podcast from March 31, 2024. https://youtu.be/DpVnxkgom20

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Be Watchful

The ancient city of Sardis in Asia Minor (located today in modern Turkey) was the capital of the kingdom of Lydia until approximately 549 BC. Until then, Sardis was thought to be impregnable because the acropolis for its military force was located on mount Tmolus about 1500 feet above the main roads of the city. The river Pactolus served as a moat at the base of this steep mountain. Despite its reputation as an impregnable city, it and the acropolis were captured in 549 BC by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Cyrus was a military genius. His conquests were numerous and brilliant. He defeated the Median king in 559 BC to become head of the Medo-Persian empire that lasted for more than 200 years. Cyrus attacked the acropolis of Sardis by secretly scaling the southern wall of mount Tmolus. This was made possible because the Sardians failed to “be watchful” (Rev 3:5), and because of one small careless act. The careless act occurred when a Sardian soldier dropped his helmet from the citadel and he descended the steep mount to retrieve it on steps that had been cut into the rocky face. The Persian army observed the step-by-step descent and ascent of the Sardian soldier. After observing the soldier, the Persian army scaled the southern face of the mount in the footsteps of the soldier. They defeated the acropolis that was unwatched and unguarded at its southern face. In 96 AD, John wrote a letter to members of Christ’s church in Sardis with a reminder of what happened in their city almost 650 years earlier. The Sardian saints were, in general, a spiritually apathetic people whose name and social standing in the community were more important to them than their inward commitment to Jesus Christ. Christ rebuked them in John’s letter, saying: “thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Rev 3:1) Then came the Lord’s admonition to “be watchful” (Rev 3:2). This must have been a painful reminder of how the unwatchful Sardians were defeated by king Cyrus in a very dramatic and devastating way. Cyrus burned the city’s fortifications in a massive fire. Archeologists have located broken-boned skeletons among the burned-out ruins suggesting their deaths by violent means. The Lord’s admonition to “be watchful” to the saints in Sardis should and must be a reminder to all of us in our spiritual lives. When we are careless, complacent and apathetic in matters of the spirit we expose ourselves to the dramatic and devastating effects of spiritual death, which is to be cut off and banished from the presence of God. President David O. McKay said: “The peril of this century is spiritual apathy. As the body requires sunlight, good food, proper exercise and rest, so the spirit of man requires the sunlight of the Holy Spirit; proper exercise of the spiritual functions; the avoiding of evils that affect spiritual health, that are more ravaging in their effects than typhoid fever, pneumonia, or other diseases that attack the body.” (David O. McKay, Gospel Instruction, 360) The Lord’s admonition to “be watchful” begs the question of what we must watch for. This question was answered by king Benjamin in Mosiah 4:30, saying: “This much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”

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Power Over Nations

In Revelation 2:26, Christ addressed the saints in Thyatira (and in all ages), saying “he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” This is one of twelve promises of eternal life that Christ makes in the Book of Revelation. Since it’s not immediately obvious that having power over the nations is a promise of eternal life, this blog will explore this deeper meaning. Many scriptures make it readily apparent that Christ will have power over the nations at his Second Coming. Revelation 19:15 states that he shall “smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.” Doctrine and Covenants 87:6 adds that “the inhabitants of the earth [shall] 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.” Christ is not alone in his power over nations at the time of his Second Coming, for we are told in Revelation 19:14 that “the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” These armies in heaven‒frequently called the hosts of heaven‒are his exaltation-worthy saints. Christ obviously has “power over the nations,” but the promise in Revelation 2:26 is that the overcoming and exaltation-worthy saints will share that same power. The prophet Daniel describes this in Daniel 7:27, saying: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High.” John makes a similar prediction in Revelation 20:4 with reference to saints in the millennium, saying: “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: … and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Similarly, in Revelation 5:9-10, John saw the saints in heaven and said, “they sung a new song, saying, Thou … hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Finally, in Revelation 1:6, John tells us that Christ “hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.” (See my podcast for Revelation 1:4-6 from January 27, 2023 on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist) Latter-day apostolic witnesses add their testimony to these ancient prophets. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Those who receive the celestial exaltation will, without doubt, be made rulers over many kingdoms, and they will have power and authority to direct and to counsel those of lesser glories.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol. 2, 77) Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written that “Those who overcome the world and gain eternal life shall be made rulers over many kingdoms–not over the nations of men, … but rulers over kingdoms in eternity, kingdoms patterned after the kingdom of God our Father…. It shall then be with exalted persons as it is with Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 3, 453) Exaltation-worthy saints are the subordinate kings of the King and the subordinate lords of the Lord Jesus Christ. These scriptures and statements answer the fundamental question about the manner of people we ought to be. Jesus answered this in 3 Nephi 27:27, saying: “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” Thus, even as Christ has power over the nations, we have been promised that same power throughout all eternity as we are worthy of exaltation and become even as he is.

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That Woman Jezebel

The name Jezebel means “chaste” in Hebrew, but her name is synonymous with spiritual fornication, idolatry, and pagan worship of the most sensual kind. As the wife of king Ahab in the Old Testament, Jezebel almost single-handedly destroyed the worship of Jehovah. For this wickedness, Elijah pronounced a death sentence upon her that was carried out when her servants threw Jezebel from a window in her palace. She was dashed in pieces on the street below, trod upon by horses, and then consumed by dogs (2 Kings 9:7-37). Yuck. Despite Jezebel’s ignominious death, she lived to die another day in the visionary eyes of John the Revelator. Her name comes up again‒probably as the metaphorical name of an actual woman of her character‒in Revelation 2:20. This verse is part of John’s letter to the church in Thyatira. After commending the saints in this city for their good works, he condemns them “because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel … to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” Jezebel’s powerful heathen influence in ancient Israel was alive and well in the Thyatiran church. In most Greek manuscripts for the Book of Revelation, the words “that woman Jezebel” actually say “thy wife Jezebel.” This reading makes Jezebel the wife of the Bishop of the church in Thyatira. This is consistent with the allusion to Jezebel of the Old Testament who was the wife of king Ahab. If “that woman Jezebel” of Thyatira was also the wife of the Bishop, it means that the church was under the very powerful influence of an evil person from within their own ranks. The threat to this church came not from grievous wolves that entered from outside the church, but from wolves in sheep’s clothing that were within the church. Too often we think that temptations and evil influences always come at us from outside the Church without considering the dangers of influential people who are close to us. Elder Neil Maxwell said that many of those who leave the Church cannot leave the Church alone. These same people undoubtedly have family and close friends whom they endeavor to influence against the Church. As we think of worldly influences that pull us away from the strait and narrow path and from our testimony of Jesus Christ, the “great and spacious building” from 1 Nephi 8 comes to mind. Nephi reports that “a great and spacious building … stood as it were in the air, high above the earth…. And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.” (1 Ne 8:26, 31) The people in this great and spacious building are not just people of influence from outside our close circle of friends and even family members. Sometimes, the people that have the most influence in our lives reside in the great and spacious building. They are the Jezebel’s in our lives and in our congregations. So how can we make sure we are not corrupted by the Jezebel’s in our lives, as the saints were corrupted in Thyatira. The answer is in Revelation 2:20. Their mistake was suffering that woman Jezebel “to teach and to seduce.” They put up with her wicked influence probably because no one wanted to offend her or didn’t want to “ruffle feathers.” Who needs the drama? Am I right? Just remember, however, if we suffer these influences in our lives from those who are close to us for the sake of keeping the peace, then we may very well be condemned to an ignominious spiritual death as Jezebel was condemned to a horrible ignominious physical death. For more on the dangers of the Jezebel’s in our lives check out my podcast from March 10, 2024. https://youtu.be/vYCDRCf3O1s

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Night Compass Course

In 1984, I attended Officer Candidate School (OCS) for the United States Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. The night compass course was a skill that all candidates had to master. This test was conducted on a night when there was no moon. The only equipment was a compass with a needle that glowed against the stationary points of the instrument that also glowed in the dark. The compass course had ten starting points located about ten yards apart at one end. At the far end of the course, there were also ten ending points next to a stream. The length of the course varied for each starting point, but in general the routes were between 400 and 600 meters. That’s not bad until you realize that the course was laid out in a hilly and wooded area. Thus, in addition to the darkness, there was uneven terrain, trees, and other obstacles including small ponds. At the start of the course each candidate was given the coordinates for his start and end points on a map. These coordinates were used to determine the correct azimuth or direction of travel toward the stream at the end of the course. The OCS night compass course is a lot like life. The apostle Paul said that in life “we see through a glass, darkly.” (1 Cor 13:12). Despite the spiritual darkness of life, we know our starting point, and we know that our ultimate destination is a stream of living water at the end of the course (see Rev 21:6; 22:1; 22:17). Furthermore, the scriptures and teachings of living prophets and apostles help us set our azimuth. These items are critical since we must traverse the course of life in the spiritual darkness that Lehi called the “mists of darkness.” (1 Ne 12:17) These mists and the darkness of life can pull us off course quickly. When this occurs it can be very difficult‒not impossible‒but very difficult to regain our true azimuth. So how do we stay on the correct azimuth given the difficult conditions of the night compass course? It’s not possible to simply see the end point of our journey and simply walk toward it. Remember, we only see through a glass darkly by design and there are many obstacles. To overcome against the night compass course, we must look for the most distant point of reference that can be seen on our azimuth. Once a point of reference is identified, we can walk toward that point and‒assuming our reference was true to our azimuth‒we can then look for the next point of reference on the same azimuth. It’s a little bit like setting short-term spiritual goals. When we reach one goal or milestone, we can then set for ourselves another, and then another until we reach the stream of living water that awaits us at the end of the course. We can then say as Paul did, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7) To achieve that end, however, we must never lose our true azimuth or we will be wandering endlessly in the woods. This is what it means to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Eph 4:14) We must keep our true azimuth, even if obstacles impede a direct and straight course. In such cases, we can always backtrack to our correct azimuth after passing the obstacle in our path. The stream of living water is within our grasp as long as our azimuth is true and we are true to our azimuth.

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Christian Criminals

About 25 years ago my wife Jan bought eight acres of land at a garage sale. It was the most expensive garage sale in history. At the said garage sale an acquaintance asked Jan if she knew anyone interested in buying eight acres of bare land in the dairy country south of Elk Grove, California. After a quick negotiation and about 30 days later we owned the eight acres. Then came the process of building a house where we could raise seven children, cows, chickens, and a lot of mice from the surrounding fields. I acted as the general contractor for construction of the house and coordinated with the subcontractors to perform most of the work. After the house was built, I supervised the landscaping and coordinated with my teenage children to perform most of that work. Many Saturdays began with my melodic voice echoing over the home intercom system for the “worker bees” to get up for another fun day of hard work. Over the years we had many projects that included all the outdoor sprinkler lines, fences, a 50-tree orchard, grass and plants around the house, vegetable gardens, a large koi pond with a stream, a swimming pool with rock features and fountains, retaining walls, and a large quarter-acre pond with multiple fountains. On many Saturday mornings, the worker bees responded to my call with a measure of groaning and grumbling. Sometimes there was even weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Nevertheless, they dutifully responded to one call and then another and another. In the course of time we became a well-oiled machine and as the children grew, they became more proficient at performing tasks that only I could perform in the past. I remember one day we were pouring the concrete pad for a rock fountain in the center of the circular driveway in front of the house. This particular fountain required about six or seven yards of concrete for the pad, so we ordered a large truck. When the driver arrived, he took one look at my gangly gaggle of teenagers and just shook his head. The concrete came off the truck in quick order with all the kids doing what they had learned to do on other projects. As the pour was in process, the driver leaned over to me and said, “I’m shocked, these kids really know what they’re doing.” You couldn’t ask for a better compliment. The days of the worker bees are now in the rear-view mirror. Sometimes, when we get together as a well-knit family, we look at videos of our projects and laugh about our experiences together. The days of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth have officially become “the good old days.” Jan and I are empty nesters now. The house in the dairy country was sold when I retired and we downsized our lives. We left all the projects behind in their finished condition. We always knew, of course, that the worker bee projects were never about the finished projects themselves. We were building our children‒their strength, character, endurance, and life-skills. Seven times in the Book of Revelation, the Lord spoke to his children in the seven churches in Asia Minor and said, “I know thy works.” I can say the same about my seven children. Even if I had never seen them in action on the worker bee projects, I now see who they have become and their works do follow them. Seeing them today, I can say as the Lord did to his children in the seven churches: “I know thy works.”

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Christian Criminals

Pliny was the governor of a province called Bithynia in the Roman Empire during the reign of the emperor Trajan. Bithynia was in Asia Minor in the northwestern part of modern Turkey. During Pliny’s governorship, he wrote many letters that still exist today. One of his letters describe the faithfulness of early Christians in Asia Minor, saying: “They assemble on certain days before sunrise to sing hymns of praise to Christ, their God. They submit to torture and death rather than invoke the gods.” This letter refers to the fact that in 64 AD emperor Nero criminalized Christianity. In some areas of the Roman empire devote Christians were put to death unless they renounced their faith in Jesus Christ and worshipped the Roman emperors and/or their gods. Some Christians in Pliny’s province willingly died as criminals rather than worshiping the so-called gods of the Roman empire. This was not true of all Christians, however. Pliny was conflicted about the criminalization of Christianity and in 112 AD, he wrote a letter to emperor Trajan asking about the prosecution of practicing Christians. Pliny’s letter emphasized that the Christians posed little threat to the Empire and they seemed to be dying out. He added that some Christians worshiped Caesar and cursed Christ to avoid execution. Trajan responded to Pliny’s letter, saying: “These people must not be sought after. If they are brought before you and convicted, let them be capitally punished, yet with this restriction, that if anyone renounce Christianity, and evidence his sincerity by supplicating our gods, however suspected he may be for the past, he shall obtain pardon for the future, on his repentance.” (Milner's Ch. Hist., Vol. I., p. 148) That was long ago and has no apparent connection with today. It does beg a simple question, however. If the practice of Christianity was a crime today, would you be guilty of the offense? In our legal system, a crime requires proof of two elements. There must be a “mens rea,” which is a Latin term that means we must have the intent to commit the crime. The second element is an “actus reus,” which is also a Latin term that means there must be some act in the commission of the crime. If either element cannot be proven, then there is no crime. For the crime of Christianity these elements require that we must intend to be Christian and we must also act like a Christian. Sadly, some people say they are Christian, but they don’t really act like it. Therefore, they are not guilty of the crime of Christianity. Others act as Christians by living the ideals and standards that Christianity embraces, but they make no profession of a belief in Jesus Christ. They also are not guilty of the crime of Christianity. When the great day of Judgment comes, Christianity will not be a crime. In fact, it is the one and only thing that can assure men and women of a place in the celestial kingdom of God. Thus, the Lord himself will decide‒for very different reasons‒whether we are Christian. The Lord’s standard for judging our Christian status is set forth in Doctrine and Covenants 137:9, which states: “I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” Here again, we see the two necessary elements to prove whether we are Christian. Our actus reus (works) will be judged and our mens rea (desire) will be judged. Let us hope and pray that we’re guilty of both elements in the great and final day of our judgment.

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A Valentine's Day to Remember

I attended grade school in the 1960’s. Each year, when Valentine’s Day rolled around on February 14, I remember that the students would exchange valentines. Since I remember this annual event only vaguely, I decided to do some research on the subject. I asked my wife Jan if she can remember exchanging valentines at school when she was growing up. She responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” Then she gave me that look that means: “What, you don’t remember?” She then described the Valentine’s Day process at her house growing up. She said, “we would spend lots of time decorating the valentines and we even included candy in ours.” She also told me that her family decorated valentine’s boxes, and I had no idea what she was talking about. “Well,” said she, “you had to decorate a box with a hole cut in the top so people could drop off their valentines at your desk.” Well, this was obviously more of a production than I recall. I just remember that my mother bought a package of cheapo valentines at the store and gave them to me. I wrote down the names “To: So-and-so. From John” on all the cards. Then I’d hand them out at school. I hasten to add that after 40 years of marriage it’s a crushing blow to my ego to learn that my well-beloved was exchanging candy-filled fancy homemade Valentine’s Day cards to every Tom, Dick and Harry in her grade school class. And here, I thought I was her first love! Jan’s experience made me wonder if this Valentine’s Day exchange was something that happened in the lives of our children. I asked Jan if our children took Valentine’s Day cards to school as we did, and she said “of course!” I didn’t even remember. I guess that means that I’m out of the running (again) for hopeless romantic of the year. It’s really kind of crazy that we even have this tradition of exchanging Valentine’s Day cards when you consider where this “holiday” originated. According to our friends at Wikipedia, Valentine’s Day originated as a Christian feast day honoring a martyr named Valentine. Legend has it that Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer before his execution at the hands of the Roman empire in the early fourth-century AD. An 18th-century embellishment of this legend claims that Saint Valentine wrote the jailer's daughter a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a fond farewell before his execution. I can just see Jan signing her candy-filled homemade valentines to every Tom, Dick, and Harry as “Your Valentine.” In my continuing research of this subject, I was startled to find the following quote in Wikipedia, which describes what I can only vaguely remember from my grade-school experience, saying: “The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities are included the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines. The average valentine's spending has increased every year in the U.S, from $108 a person in 2010 to $131 in 2013. (citations omitted)” I had no idea this school valentine exchange was such a booming business even today. I’m going to follow-up with Jan and see what kind of a Valentine’s Day budget we had for our children. Seems like $108 a head is a lot of candy to pack into these Valentine’s Day cards that only some of us will even remember.

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Overcomers Wanted

Revelation 2:7 makes the first of twelve promises in the Book of Revelation, saying: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life.” The tree of life symbolizes eternal life. Each of the twelve promises in the Book of Revelation use different symbols to promise eternal life to overcomers. Since I desire to qualify myself for eternal life, I stand ready for John to tell me exactly what I must do to “overcome.” In other words, what must I have on my resume to ensure that I am an overcomer. Unfortunately, John never mentions specifically what must be done to overcome in Revelation 2:7 or in any other verse that promises eternal life. The twelve promises of eternal life in the Book of Revelation differ from the eight beatitudes spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 5. In the beatitudes, each statement of blessedness explains what is required to receive the blessing. For example, to inherit the kingdom of heaven a person must be poor in spirit (Matt 5:3) or persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Matt 5:10) To inherit the earth, a person must be meek. (Matt 5:5) To see God, a person must be pure in heart. (Matt 5:8) These beatitudinal blessings are akin to the promises of eternal life in the Book of Revelation, but they also include helpful hints for my resume building. Fortunately, the word “overcome” appears in a number of scriptures that explain its meaning. Consider John 16:33, where the Savior told his disciples at the last supper to “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Well…. This may not have been the best scripture to begin with because if I’m expected to overcome the world in the same way the Savior did, my plans for seeking eternal life may be in jeopardy. Fortunately, Christ does not expect us to be perfect as he was in overcoming the world. Doctrine and Covenants 64:2 states that “I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you.” I interpret this to mean that his grace is sufficient to qualify us as overcomers if we are faithful to his commandments and endure to the end. (D&C 63:47) Elder Bruce R. McConkie described what it means to overcome in the context of the twelve promises of eternal life in the Book of Revelation. He said: “In each instance, the promises given are conditioned upon the requirement that the recipients shall overcome the world…. And he expects us to overcome, to conquer, to come off triumphant, to be victorious, to win the war with sin, even as he himself did. (John 16:33).” (Bruce R. McConkie, DNTC, Vol. 3, 445) In the Greek language‒the language of the New Testament‒the word “overcome” is translated from the word nikan, which means to conquer or be victorious. Overcoming is a prevalent theme in the entire Book of Revelation, and the Lord has made sure there can be no misunderstanding as to its meaning. He devotes two entire chapters discussing the evils faced by the ancient saints in the seven churches of Asia. Thus, we have ample illustrations of what it means to overcome the world based on their experiences. We need only look at what the ancient saints did or failed to do to overcome and we have our answer. William Shakespeare said, “the past is prologue.” This means that saints in the modern world can and must overcome the world of sin as did the ancient saints before us. Then as now, advertisements displayed in the windows of heaven still say “Overcomers Wanted” for all applicants seeking eternal life.

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Antichrists Ancient and Modern

In Revelation 2:2, Christ complimented the ancient saints in Ephesus because “thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” The epistles of John‒which were written after the Book of Revelation in 96 AD‒describe in more detail the identity of these imitation apostles. 1 John 1:8 states that “even now are there many antichrists.” In 1 John 4:3, we are told that “every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist.” Finally, in 2 John 1:7, it states that “many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” The epistles of John are the only place in the New Testament where the word antichrist appears. These verses confirm that the counterfeit apostles and liars in Ephesus were antichrists. They taught the false doctrine that Jesus did not come in the flesh (see 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). This was a fundamental teaching of the Gnostics, who emerged in the late first century AD as a heretical group from within the Christian church. The Gnostic belief that Christ did not come in the flesh is an outgrowth of the broader Gnostic dogma that mortal and physical bodies are part of the inferior world, that only the spirit is saved, and that Jesus, therefore, would not have descended to an earthly level of inferior existence and was not resurrected with a physical body. Please note that the antichristian doctrines identified by John are not a wholesale rejection of Jesus Christ and his power to save. In fact, antichrists and antichristian doctrines tend to mimic or mirror in many ways the true doctrines of Christ. The prefix anti- is of Greek origin and means against, opposed to, and instead of. In the 1828 version of Websters dictionary this prefix means “like” or a “mirror image of.” Dr. Hugh Nibley has also found “a Semitic and common Indo-European root corresponding to anti that means ‘in the face of’ or ‘facing,’ as of one facing a mirror, and by extension either ‘one who opposes’ or ‘one who imitates.’” (Quoted in Eldin Ricks, Book of Mormon Study Guide, p. 63.) Based on the foregoing, an antichrist can be anyone opposed to Christ who is also deceptively similar to Christ. Let’s return now to our friends the Ephesians who were faced with a barrage of antichristian doctrines by persons professing to have apostolic authority. The Ephesians “tried them” and found them “liars” in a manner not disclosed in the Holy Writ. However, we cannot doubt that the false doctrines of these interlopers were tested against the true doctrines found in the scriptures. In an allegorical sense, the Ephesians set these antichrists and their doctrines before a mirror to see if there was in them a true reflection of Jesus Christ. The Ephesian experience is not unique to that time or place. Today, the kingdom of God has been set up as a stone that rolls forth to fill the whole earth, and it will never be destroyed as predicted by the prophet Daniel. (Dan 2:34-45) However, Daniel also predicted that in these last days, Satan “shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High.” (Dan 7:25) In this day of continuing apostasy and wearing out of the saints, we must test any and all antichrists who seek to change the doctrines of Christ from within the Church. Regardless of any social pressures of the day, our doctrinal mirrors must always reflect the clear image of Jesus Christ. This account is from the sworn testimony given by Mr. Freidberg at the trial of his tax case, with a few details added from Wikipedia. By the end of his racing career as a harness horse, Cam Fella had earned over $2 million in winnings. When he became a syndicated stallion, Freidberg purchased a 25 percent interest. Cam Fella then became the greatest sire of standardbred horses of all time. He sired 1002 foals that collectively earned $106.7 million in prize money. Horse owners paid $40,000 for a single Cam Fella breeding. Cam Fella’s success on the track and in the breeding barn is the story of a horse that overcame adversity to become the very best of the best. He was born on May 14, 1979, as a ridgling, which means he had only one descended testicle. Ridglings are frequently gelded because the condition can cause discomfort, behavioral issues and less than optimal performance on the track. As a young colt, Cam Fella had other physical characteristics, which suggested that he would not be a great racehorse. He was not the biggest or strongest standardbred horse when matched against many of his peers. His conformation was also less than ideal, which means the bone structure in his legs was slightly off. This was expected to negatively impact his speed on the track. Despite these adverse physical limitations, Cam Fella defied the odds and became the greatest harness champion of all time. Cam Fella had something within him that set him apart from his competitors. In humans, we’d call it willpower or heart. Mr. Freidberg testified that when Cam Fella raced, he exhibited this unwillingness to let other horses pass him. If another horse started to move ahead in the race, Cam Fella instinctively increased his pace so that he could not be beaten at the finish line. This quality made him a champion. When Cam Fella was syndicated the big question was whether this remarkable quality would be passed down to his bloodline? In many cases it was, and Cam Fella thus became the greatest standardbred sire of all time. We can learn a lot from the Cam Fella story about overcoming adversity in our lives. We all have limitations that can hold us back‒or not. We may not be the biggest or strongest spiritually. Perhaps we are spiritually bow-legged. Despite our physical, mental or emotional challenges we have our agency (not just instinct) to overcome adversity in our lives. In the race that we call life, Doctrine & Covenants 64:34 sets forth the formula to overcome adversity and to fight the good fight, saying: “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” We can choose to overcome any adversity and win our race with a good heart and a willing mind. We can all be Cam Fella. For my further discussion of Cam Fella, check out my January 20, 2024, podcast on Youtube@UnveilingJesusChrist. Oh, the tax case? Yes, Cam Fella won again despite the odds.

Overcoming Adversity

Cam Fella died on May 9, 2001, as the greatest standardbred racehorse of all time. Since he’s not around to tell his story, I’m pleased to tell it for him. I became acquainted with the Cam Fella story many years ago when I tried a lawsuit in San Francisco, California. Cam Fella was at the center of a tax case between his owner, Ed Freidberg, and the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The FTB rejected Freidberg’s horse racing deductions on his tax returns because his horse racing activities suffered many years of continuous losses. The FTB determined that this multimillion-dollar business was merely a hobby because of its multimillion-dollar losses. This account is from the sworn testimony given by Mr. Freidberg at the trial of his tax case, with a few details added from Wikipedia. By the end of his racing career as a harness horse, Cam Fella had earned over $2 million in winnings. When he became a syndicated stallion, Freidberg purchased a 25 percent interest. Cam Fella then became the greatest sire of standardbred horses of all time. He sired 1002 foals that collectively earned $106.7 million in prize money. Horse owners paid $40,000 for a single Cam Fella breeding. Cam Fella’s success on the track and in the breeding barn is the story of a horse that overcame adversity to become the very best of the best. He was born on May 14, 1979, as a ridgling, which means he had only one descended testicle. Ridglings are frequently gelded because the condition can cause discomfort, behavioral issues and less than optimal performance on the track. As a young colt, Cam Fella had other physical characteristics, which suggested that he would not be a great racehorse. He was not the biggest or strongest standardbred horse when matched against many of his peers. His conformation was also less than ideal, which means the bone structure in his legs was slightly off. This was expected to negatively impact his speed on the track. Despite these adverse physical limitations, Cam Fella defied the odds and became the greatest harness champion of all time. Cam Fella had something within him that set him apart from his competitors. In humans, we’d call it willpower or heart. Mr. Freidberg testified that when Cam Fella raced, he exhibited this unwillingness to let other horses pass him. If another horse started to move ahead in the race, Cam Fella instinctively increased his pace so that he could not be beaten at the finish line. This quality made him a champion. When Cam Fella was syndicated the big question was whether this remarkable quality would be passed down to his bloodline? In many cases it was, and Cam Fella thus became the greatest standardbred sire of all time. We can learn a lot from the Cam Fella story about overcoming adversity in our lives. We all have limitations that can hold us back‒or not. We may not be the biggest or strongest spiritually. Perhaps we are spiritually bow-legged. Despite our physical, mental or emotional challenges we have our agency (not just instinct) to overcome adversity in our lives. In the race that we call life, Doctrine & Covenants 64:34 sets forth the formula to overcome adversity and to fight the good fight, saying: “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” We can choose to overcome any adversity and win our race with a good heart and a willing mind. We can all be Cam Fella. For my further discussion of Cam Fella, check out my January 20, 2024, podcast on Youtube@UnveilingJesusChrist. Oh, the tax case? Yes, Cam Fella won again despite the odds.

Revelation 1:9 "A Companion in Tribulation"

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The Book of Revelation formally begins in Revelation 1:9, where John identified himself as a “brother, and companion in tribulation.” When John wrote these words, he was the sole-surviving apostle from Christ’s ancient church. His brethren of the twelve had all been martyred just as the Savior predicted, saying: “Beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues…. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death.” (Matt 10:17, 21) John lived to write the Book of Revelation, but he was not immune to the tribulations faced by his brothers and sisters in the gospel. John‒above all people‒had reason to question why he should be subjected to tribulation. After all, he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23) and was, by his own confession, a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. (JST Rev 1:5) This brings to mind the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? To put this question in context, consider Christ’s statement to his disciples when he ascended to heaven from the mount of Olives after his resurrection. He said: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt 28:18) Surely, with all this power Christ could spare his faithful saints from tribulation, both anciently and now. So let’s change the age-old question and ask why does Christ allow bad things to happen to good people? To put this new and improved question in context, consider Paul’s paradoxical statement that “we glory in tribulations.” (Rom 5:3) A paradox is a self-contradictory statement or an absurd proposition that is actually true. Paul’s statement is paradoxical because tribulations lead to glory and eternal life. Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Mortal life was never intended to be free from toil, tribulation, and diverse conditions. All of these increase our knowledge through experience…. Therefore, mortality should be looked on as a period of schooling all of which is essential to our eternal progression and exaltation in the kingdom of our Eternal Father.” Doctrine and Covenants 58:2-3 states that whoever “is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes … the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.” This scripture highlights the play on words in Paul’s paradoxical statement. That is, we should glory in tribulation because tribulation brings glory. Notice also, that tribulation and glory are proportional. The greater the tribulation (endured in patience) the greater the glory. This illustrated by the Three Nephites who asked to tarry and labor on earth, while the other nine disciples wanted to speedily come unto Christ at the retirement age of 72 years. (3 Ne 28:2-3) Christ told the Three Nephites “more blessed are ye.” They were promised exaltation and to be even as Christ. (3 Ne 28:10) At this point you may be asking yourself: “Isn’t there an easier way to gain exaltation?” Since God’s plan of salvation is perfect, the answer must be “No.” Furthermore, Acts 14:22 emphatically states that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” This answer may not be wholly satisfying, so let me suggest another. I think we should actually ask ourselves this question: “Is it paradoxically true that for the small price of tribulation we face in this life, we can be exalted in the celestial kingdom and be even as Christ is?” The answer is emphatically “Yes!” This is the most satisfying answer possible for all the tribulations we face in this life no matter how severe.

Revelation 1:6 "God and his Father"

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Revelation 1:6 mentions “God and his Father.” Just 11 days before Joseph Smith was martyred in Carthage, Illinois, he commented on these words and said, “It is altogether correct in the translation.” Joseph further clarified his meaning by saying: “If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God, the Father of Jesus Christ, had a Father, you may suppose that he had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly. Hence, if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that he had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.” (Millennial Star, vol xxiv, 109.) Elder Brigham H. Roberts described this Biblical doctrine more succinctly, saying: “I call special attention to the words written above in Italics–‘unto God and his Father,’ which can only mean God and the Father of God, which certainly conveys the idea of a plurality of Gods.” (Brigham H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol. 1, 464) The plurality of Gods should not be a controversial doctrine among Bible-believing Christians. Paul speaks about the doctrine in 1 Corinthians 8:5, saying: “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many).” Jesus reaffirmed the doctrine when he said, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:34-35) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts these doctrinal truths from the Bible as a natural extension of our belief that we are children of God and have the potential to become like him. Elder Orson Pratt wrote that “The dealing of God towards his children from the time they are first born in Heaven, through all their successive stages of existence, until they are redeemed, perfected, and made Gods, is a pattern after which all other worlds are dealt with.… The Father of our spirits has only been doing that which His Progenitors did before Him. Each succeeding generation of Gods follow the example of the preceding ones.… Thus will worlds and systems of worlds … be multiplied in endless succession through the infinite depths of boundless space.” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, 134-135) Latter-day Saints believe in a plurality of Gods, but we are not polytheistic To the contrary, our scriptures say very plainly that “mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for He is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me.” (Moses 1:6) This statement by God himself, is not out of harmony with the statements of Paul and others who say there is a plurality of Gods. The First Presidency harmonized these various viewpoints by pointing out that there may be gods many and lords many: “But the sole object of worship, God the Eternal Father, stands supreme and alone, and it is in the name of the Only Begotten that we thus approach Him, as Christ taught always.” (“Only One God to Worship” by the First Presidency of the Church, April 1912, Messages of the First Presidency of the Church, Vol 4, 270; see also 1 Cor 8:6 [“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him.”]) Thus, God the Father has an exalted father, but to us there is one God, who is our Heavenly Father.

Revelation 1:1 "Things which must shortly come to pass"

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John’s visions in the Book of Revelation came to him while banished on the island of Patmos in about 96 AD. According to Revelation 1:1, his visions concern “things which must shortly come to pass.” This statement seems to be at odds with reality because most of John’s visions concern things pertaining to Christ’s Second Coming that still lies in the future. When viewed from an ancient perspective, the “things which must shortly come to pass” refers to events whose beginnings “must shortly come to pass” after 96 AD. In his day, John witnessed the beginnings of Satan’s powerful dominion in the Roman Empire that opposed and persecuted the ancient church of Jesus Christ. John also saw the beginnings of the Great Apostasy that endured for more than a thousand years. Today, as the Second Coming approaches, the “things which must shortly come to pass” takes on an added meaning. We’re not just witnessing the beginning of things which must shortly come to pass, we’re also witnessing the culmination of things that lead to Christ’s Second Coming. This latter-day perspective is confirmed in Moroni’s prophecy from Ether 4:16, which states that in the last days “shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed.” In a latter-day context, “the things which must shortly come to pass in John’s vision” are the same things that will be “unfolded in the eyes of all people” in Moroni’s vision. Moroni’s latter-day prophecy also states that “the time is at hand” for the unfolding events of Christ’s Second Coming. To say that “the time is at hand” means that the unfolding events are near and will “shortly come to pass.” Moroni’s use of “the time is at hand” in a latter-day context is noteworthy because John used the exact same phrase in Revelation 1:3, saying: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” People in the world today cannot be casual consumers of John’s prophecy in the Book of Revelation. The world must read, hear and keep the sayings of the prophecy for “time is at hand” for Christ’s Second Coming. Joseph Smith made two inspired changes to Revelation 1:3 in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible. First, he added the word “understand” to the list of things we must do. In addition to reading, hearing, and keeping John’s sayings, we must also understand John’s prophecy. It’s self-obvious that if we must keep the sayings of the prophecy, we must also first understand them. Furthermore, since the sayings must be understood, this implies that they can be understood. Those who ignore or take a pass on the Book of Revelation because it’s too difficult to understand forfeit the promised blessings. The JST also clarifies that “the time is at hand” in Revelation 1:3 refers specifically to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is made clear because Joseph Smith changed “the time is at hand” to say, “the time of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (JST Rev 1:3) The entire verse in a latter-day context now reads: “Blessed are they who read, and they who hear and understand the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein, for the time of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” Since “the time of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh,” we would be well-advised to draw near unto the Lord and to seek him diligently. (D&C 88:63)

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Spiritual Waters

The Book of Revelation contains many metaphors of spiritual waters. For example, in Revelation 1:5, the voice of Jesus Christ is “the sound of many waters.” In Revelation 4:6, a “sea of glass like unto crystal” stands before the throne of God in heaven. In Revelation 7:17, the Lamb of God shall lead 144,000 exaltation-worthy saints “unto living fountains of waters.” The last chapter in the Book of Revelation describes “a pure river of water of life” on this celestialized earth, followed by a final invitation for all who are athirst to come and “take the water of life freely.” (Rev 22:1, 17) These positive metaphors stand in stark contrast to the tumultuous waters that represent evil and earthly conditions in the Book of Revelation. For example, earthly rivers and seas are cursed to become like blood and bitterness in Revelation 8:8-11. In Revelation 12:12, a woe is pronounced upon the “inhabiters of the earth and the sea.” In Revelation 12:15, “a serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood.” In Revelation 13:1, John saw a “beast rise up out of the sea.” The many waters in Revelation 17:15 represent wicked “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Metaphorical waters are not unique to the Book of Revelation. In James 1:6, faithless people are compared to “a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” The apostle Paul used a similar metaphor in Ephesians 4:4, to describe some saints as “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” Today, it’s not uncommon for people to allude to the shifting tides of the ocean to describe spiritual high points and spiritual low points in their lives. The new year is a good opportunity to assess the spiritual waters in our lives. Looking back over the past year, we may find that tumultuous waters have tossed us “to and fro” like a “wave of the sea.” We may also feel like Satan has cast out water as a flood against us to the point that we can barely keep our spiritual heads above water. Looking forward to the new year, we have hope through our faith in Jesus Christ that he can calm the tumultuous waters in our lives as he calmed the sea of Galilee when he “said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39) From the account of Peter walking on the water we learn that our faith makes it possible for us to safely walk on the spiritual floodwaters that Satan casts out of his mouth against us. (Matt 14:28-31) How can we navigate the spiritual waters of life more safely and securely in a world that offers increasing dangers upon the seas that we must traverse? Surely, we must exercise faith in Jesus Christ during the coming year. We cannot hope to hear his voice in our lives as “the sound of many waters” if we do not have faith in him. Our new year’s resolutions should be faith-based resolutions that can change our spiritual lives. They must also be focused on his exemplary life so that we can conform our lives to his. Only in this way can we hope to come “unto living fountains of waters.” Similarly, we can only drink of the “pure river of water of life” if we love Christ and keep his commandments. This new year’s eve, perhaps we should focus less on thirsting after champagne and Martinelli’s and focus more on drinking “the water of life freely.” This year let us choose the water of life as our drink of choice.

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A Christmas Truce 

World War 1 began with the June 28, 1914, assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. When Germany entered the war a short time later, its goal was to defeat France (via the Netherlands and Belgium) in an eastward race to the sea. Once France was defeated, the Germans planned to redeploy their forces to the Russian front. Germany’s strategy failed, however. By the end of 1914 the combatants on the western front were at a stalemate and a continuous line of trenches stretched from the English Channel to Switzerland. During the week before December 25, 1914, the French, German, and British soldiers began to enter the no man’s land between their trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and to talk. These exchanges were facilitated by the proximity of the opposing trenches. Some were so close together that the opposing combatants could yell back and forth to each other. On Christmas eve and on Christmas day, roughly 100,000 men ventured into the no man’s land on the western front to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were also joint burial ceremonies, prisoner swaps, and games of football. Several meetings ended in caroling. During this time of goodwill, the sounds of artillery fire fell silent. The Christmas Truce of 1914, as it has become known, is a remarkable testimony of how peace can come through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This informal truce is even more remarkable when viewed from the broader context of the war in which it occurred. World War 1 was one of the deadliest wars in history. Approximately eight to nine million soldiers died and 23 million were wounded. Another five million civilians died from various causes, including diseases caused by the wartime conditions. Chlorine gas was used by both sides for the first time as a weapon of war, and it became one of the most feared horrors of the war. Genocide and ethnic cleansing were also prevalent during the conflict. In short, humanity was at its very worst on the battlefield and yet the light and influence of Jesus Christ somehow brought out the very best in men. World War 1 ended with the Allied victory, but that was only the end of the beginning. Today, we find ourselves in a world full of war on virtually every continent and in every clime. In addition to the many physical conflicts, we have dug ourselves into metaphorical trenches that tear at the very fabric of our society. These trenches represent the polarization of political, social, and religious points of view that have left society with a veritable no man’s land of intolerance. The lyrics from the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” ring true, saying that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” Is it possible to recreate the Christmas Truce of 1914 in a society where the no man’s land between our metaphorical trenches is both wide and perilous. If there is to be a Christmas Truce in this day, surely it must begin as it did almost 100 years ago when one brave soul and then another and another reached out to their enemy in a spirit of peace and friendship and love and understanding. Our metaphorical trenches today may be wide apart, but I believe in the Spirit of Jesus Christ and its power to penetrate the hearts of the most hardened. Let each of us, therefore, be that one brave soul that reaches out to others in the Spirit of Jesus Christ so that we can again experience the miracle of a Christmas Truce.

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The Flashback of All Flashbacks

Writers use flashbacks to step outside their chronological storyline with information from the past. A flashback gives the necessary context for the actions people take in the story and their motives. Prophets in the scriptures use the same literary technique for the same reasons, but there is often an additional dynamic. In the scriptures, the past frequently foreshadows the future. This dynamic exists in the “flashback of all flashbacks” found in chapter 12 from the Book of Revelation. Before the flashback begins in Revelation 12, John briefly introduces the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in Revelation 11. This brief introduction is limited to a symbolic summary of how the last remaining destroyers of the earth will be destroyed when “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” (Rev 11:15) The flashback in Revelation 12 then explains how Christ’s Second Coming victory will occur. The flashback takes us from the future Second Coming back in time to the premortal existence in heaven before the physical creation of this earth. Now that’s what I call a flashback! In the flashback John saw the premortal spirit of Jesus Christ as a “man child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.” (Rev 12:5) These words mean that Jesus Christ was foreordained to rule over all wicked nations at the Second Coming. Christ’s future victory over Satan will come as no surprise because it has been foreknown since the time Christ was a God in premortality. The flashback predicts Christ’s future victory over Satan, but it also explains how that victory will occur. Revelation 12:7 states that “there was war in heaven.” This was a literal war among and between God’s premortal spirit children, including the righteous spirits of “Michael and his angels [who] fought against the dragon … and his [fallen] angels.” (Rev 12:7) When the dragon [Satan] was defeated, John “heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. (Rev 12:10) Notice how the language of victory from the war in heaven resembles the language of Christ’s victory at the Second Coming. The victory came in heaven as salvation came to “the kingdom of our God” by and through “the power of his Christ.” (Rev 12:10) During the Second Coming victory, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” (Rev 11:15) The words of victory are virtually identical because Christ’s premortal victory foreshadows and foretells his Second Coming victory. History will repeat itself. The flashback to the war in heaven provides the historical context and pattern for Christ’s victory over Satan at the Second Coming. During the war in heaven, Michael and his hosts of heaven “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11) So also, Christ shall defeat Satan at the Second Coming by the power of Christ’s atonement. When he ascended from the mount of Olives in Matthew 28, Christ declared that “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt 28:18) By this power Christ shall again defeat Satan as the kingdom of our God and his Christ is established on earth as it was in heaven. John’s flashback of all flashbacks is not only instructive of how and what will happen at the Second Coming, it expresses the certainty of Christ’s victory over Satan because history will repeat itself. We shall again rejoice on earth, as we rejoiced in heaven at the time of Christ’s premortal victory. (Rev 12:12)

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Seven Seals in a Nutshell

When I was in law school, my fellow students often prepared for final exams by purchasing “Nutshell” books as study guides for each of their law school classes. There were nutshells for every course of study. A “nutshell” is an idiom or slang for the summarization of content in the simplest and most concise terms. Today, I shall endeavor to write a nutshell for the seven seals from the Book of Revelation. If you want a complete semester’s worth of information, however, you need to watch or listen to my podcast as part of the Come, Follow Me curriculum for the week of December 10-16, 2023. (See Youtube@UnveilingJesusChrist) So here’s the seven seals in a nutshell. They represent seven consecutive periods of one thousand years each beginning with the fall of Adam and continuing until the end of the earth. (D&C 77:7) At the time of John’s vision in 96 AD, four thousand years of history had past. This means that the first four seals are historical, and they also correspond to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The last three seals are prophetic and cover future periods from the time of Christ’s first advent through the end of the earth. The four historical seals and the three prophetic seals involve the use of complex images and contrasting symbols that are mirror opposites. That is, the images from the first four historical seals mirror events leading up to the Second Coming in opposite order. In a nutshell, here’s how the mirrror opposite images in reverse order apply: First Seal: The first horse of the apocalypse was white to represent the triumph of Enoch and his people that were taken to heaven in the period from 4000-3000 BC. Enoch’s white horse is a foreshadow and type for the white horse that Jesus Christ will symbolically ride when he triumphs over Satan at the Second Coming (Rev 19:11). Second Seal: The second horse of the apocalypse was red to represent the wars and bloodshed that preceded, and took place at, the time of Noah’s flood during the period from 3000-2000 BC. This red horse is a type and foreshadow for the bloodshed of Armageddon in Revelation 9:13-21. The red bloodshed of Armageddon immediately precedes the white horse of Christ’s triumph at the Second Coming. Third Seal: The third horse of the apocalypse was black to represent the physical death of many people from famine and starvation during the period from 2000-1000 BC. This was a time of mass migration when Abraham left the Ur of Chaldees to escape the severe famine and when Jacob (Israel) went with his family to Egypt for want of food. This black horse is a type and foreshadow for the period of spiritual darkness and famine that will severely afflict the earth in Revelation 9:1-11. This occurs immediately before the red bloodshed of Armageddon, and before the white horse of the Second Coming. Fourth Seal: The fourth horse of the apocalypse was pale to represent the sickly spiritual condition of the Israelites in the period from 1000 BC-1 AD. This includes the intertestamental period of apostasy when there were no prophets among the Jews. This pale and sickly horse is a type and foreshadow for the spiritual sickness that afflicts the whole world in these last days of the sixth seal. If you feel like the world is spiritually sick and on the brink of moral bankruptcy, you should not be surprised. This is exactly what John predicted in 96 AD when he revealed the contrasting and mirror opposite images of the seven seals. If you’d like more than the nutshell version of the seven seals, may I suggest that you obtain a copy of The Book of Revelation Doctrinal Commentary: Unveiling Jesus Christ through my website at www.UnveilingJesusChrist.com.

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John the Revelator: A Human-Interest Story 

When I was growing up, Paul Harvey was a legendary radio broadcaster. Every Friday morning his distinctive drill-sergeant voice announced: “Good morning, America. It’s Friday.” After his iconic greeting and the news of the day, Harvey ended each broadcast with a human-interest story. His stories always ended with a moment of radio silence followed by this equally iconic salutation: “Paul Harvey. Good day.” Well, it’s Friday again, but I’m not Paul Harvey. Nevertheless, it’s time to share a story of great human interest about John the Revelator. You may not realize it, but John’s human-interest story has been reported in scripture dating back thousands of years. Not long after 600 BC, the prophet Nephi had a vision of the latter days, which is recorded in 1 Nephi 14. Nephi was about to record his complete vision, but the Lord told him to stop writing because John the Revelator was foreordained to do so in the Book of Revelation. (1 Ne 14:25-28) If the Lord had not stopped Nephi, the contents of the Book of Revelation would be part of Nephi’s account in the Book of Mormon. Almost 1000 years later‒in about 400 AD‒Moroni had a similar experience. After a genocidal war destroyed the Nephite civilization, Moroni had a little extra time on his hands while evading Lamanite death squads. During his time in hiding, Moroni completed the record of his deceased father (Mormon 8:2-3), and then he proceeded to abridge and condense the Jaredite record known as the book of Ether. Moroni must have read this ancient record with a sense of de ja vue, because Ether’s description of the Jaredite destruction mirrored Moroni’s description of the Nephite destruction. As Moroni began to condense the Jaredite record, he was about to write down the great things which the Lord had revealed to the brother of Jared. However, the Lord stopped Moroni and told him to seal up these great things. (Ether 4:4-5) He got the same memo that Nephi got almost 1000 years before. Furthermore, after Moroni was told to seal up the “great things” from the Jaredite record, Moroni mentioned the Apocalypse of John the Revelator as Nephi had done before him. (Ether 4:15-16) In other words, two Nephite prophets‒living almost 1000 years apart‒mention the writings of John the Revelator after they were told to seal up and not reveal what the Lord had made known to them. Here’s the interesting part about this human-interest story. At the time Moroni mentioned the Book of Revelation in 400 AD on the western hemisphere, John’s visions were already part of the Bible canon on the eastern hemisphere. Nevertheless, Moroni said the Book of Revelation would come forth in the last days (our day), saying: “then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed.” (Ether 4:15-16) So here we are. It’s the last days, it’s December, and it’s Friday. This is the month we embark on our study of the Book of Revelation as part of the Come, Follow Me curriculum. Check out my Come, Follow Me podcasts on YouTube @UnveilingJesusChrist. Let this be the year, month, and day when we fulfill Moroni’s prophecy together. Let us be part of John’s latter-day human-interest story that will come fully to fruition as “my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people.” [Dramatic pause for effect] John Cassinat. Good day.

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Thanksgiving With the Prophet Daniel

Daniel was a prophet from the Old Testament who was taken to Babylon as a captive in about 605 BC. He was a chief prince among the Jews during the entire period of their 70-year captivity. He also remained in Babylon until at least 515 BC‒more than 20 years after the Jewish captivity ended. From the time he was a young man until the end of his life, Daniel experienced and witnessed many hardships in Babylon. It makes me wonder what Thanksgiving was like for Daniel in Babylon. I realize, of course, that Thanksgiving is an American tradition‒not Babylonian. But indulge me for just a moment if you please. In our American tradition of Thanksgiving we always reflect on, and give thanks for, blessings past and present. Future blessings are not usually the subject of our Thanksgivings because we don’t know what the future holds. For Daniel, on the other hand, Thanksgiving was just the opposite. He was a captive in Babylon for most of his life, which meant that his past and present blessings always left something to be desired. Nevertheless, as a visionary prophet, he could be thankful for the future blessings from his visions, including the Seventy Weeks Prophecy found in Daniel 9. The Seventy Weeks Prophecy came as Daniel was praying about the Jewish captivity in Babylon. It was not a prayer of thanksgiving. In fact, Daniel acknowledged that the Jewish captives deserved every hardship, every tragedy, and every evil that befell them because they had forsaken the Lord (Dan 9:3-16). After almost 70 years, however, even Daniel wondered if enough is enough, and he asked the Lord to finally bless his covenant people (Dan 9:17-19). The angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel and revealed God’s future blessing in Daniel 9:20-23. The words of Gabriel to Daniel have become known as the “Seventy Weeks Prophecy.” This complex prophecy is just four verses long (Dan 9:24-27), but divergent opinions abound as to their meaning. I will discuss this complex prophecy in more detail in my podcast this Sunday on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist. My audio podcast can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. In addition to the foregoing, you can find a discussion of this prophecy in Sections 160-167 in my book entitled The Book of Revelation Doctrinal Commentary: Unveiling Jesus Christ. The first two verses in the Seventy Weeks Prophecy‒Daniel 4:24-25‒predicted the timing for the first advent of Jesus Christ. These verses accurately predicted that Christ’s atonement would occur 483 years after king Artaxerxes of Persia issued a decree for the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This prophecy is made more remarkable by the fact that Daniel made this prediction almost 100 years before Artaxerxes issued the decree. Daniel saw the atonement of Jesus Christ with prophetic foresight better than we see it today with historical hindsight. Daniel’s vision must have been glorious indeed, but it did not change the difficulties in Daniel’s life. He continued to suffer hardships and trials, including his near-death experience in the lion’s den that occurred almost fourteen years after Gabriel revealed the Seventy Weeks Prophecy. Since Daniel was captive in Babylon for most of his life, I suspect his Thanksgivings were filled primarily with gratitude for the future blessings he foresaw, rather than any past or present blessings that never materialized in his lifetime. For us, the atonement happened almost 2000 years ago, and it’s the foundation for many of our past and present blessings. Indeed, were it not for the blessings of the past atonement, there would be comparatively few blessings to be thankful for in our present Thanksgiving.

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The Book with Seven Seals 

In Revelation 5:1, John the Revelator saw God the Father holding “a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.” You won’t find this “book” listed on Amazon for several reasons. First, it’s not actually a book. It’s an opisthograph‒an ancient manuscript made of papyrus (plant-based linen) or parchment (animal skins) with writing on both sides of the material. Ancient documents of this kind are quite rare. In John’s vision, he uses the image of an opisthograph to express the idea that the record is full and complete. This “book” is also a scroll made by gluing sheets together that could be many feet in length and rolled up for storage. In Luke 4:16-19, Jesus Christ read a messianic prophecy from the book or scroll of Isaiah and then declared his messiahship by saying: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:21) His declaration filled the Jews of Nazareth with such wrath that they thrust him out of the city. (Luke 4:28-29) The book in Revelation 5:1 was sealed with seven seals. Imagine buying a book on Amazon and when it arrives all the pages are glued together. That’s the frustration John felt when he first saw the sealed book and he “wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book.” (Rev 5:4) The book couldn’t be read because seven seals made with hot wax secured the scrolled material. The seals had a signet impressed into the wax made with a finger ring or similar object with an engraved design. The seals symbolically confirmed the authenticity of the book and prevented disclosure of the contents. Seven, of course, symbolizes completeness and perfection, which means that this book and its contents are both perfect and complete. Check out my podcast from October 29‒on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist‒which describes the use of numbers as symbols in the Book of Revelation. This book with seven seals is unusual because each seal secured a separate part of the scroll. Thus, each seal could be opened separately to reveal the content of one sealed portion without simultaneously revealing the content of the entire scroll. The whole book contained the “complete will, mysteries, and works of God” (D&C 77:6) throughout the earth’s 7000-year history since the fall of Adam. Each seal represents a thousand-year period. We’re now living in the sixth period of one-thousand years. The seventh and final seal will be opened in the near future. When that happens, the captain will turn on the “fasten your seatbelt” light. Until then, you’re free to move about the cabin. The seven symbolic seals can only be opened or unsealed by an authorized and worthy person. Fortunately, Jesus Christ, “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Rev 5:5) This means that Christ, by his infinite atonement, prevailed to open the book with seven seals and to carry out the complete works of God. If you’d like to know more about this book with seven seals, may I suggest that you acquire the book about the book. I’m referring to The Book of Revelation Doctrinal Commentary: Unveiling Jesus Christ. If you order this book about the book on black Friday or cyber-Monday, you’ll get 40% off the retail price. The discount code will be available at www.UnveilingJesusChrist.com and you can order the book from the same location. Remember Amazon doesn’t sell sealed books that have their pages glued together, and the 40% discount is only available through my website. As you prepare to study the Book of Revelation as part of “Come, Follow Me” in December, now is the best time ever to get the book about the book with seven seals.

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Problems and Symptoms of Problems 

This weekend I watched an episode of the TV series called “House.” The title of the show refers to a grouchy, but brilliant doctor who specializes in the treatment of infectious diseases. He’s the medical version of Sherlock Holmes. In the episode, Dr. House encountered a young man with seven symptoms that didn’t correlate with any known disease. That is, no single cause could explain all seven symptoms. Of course, until the cause was known there could be no cure and simply treating the symptoms could worsen the cause. This medical conundrum crops up in real life. We constantly encounter non-medical situations that are symptoms of societal problems. Frequently, the symptoms are mistaken for the root cause of the problem, and we try to solve the symptoms rather than fixing the problem. Allow me to illustrate this observation with reference to the current war between Israel and Hamas. To say that this war is a “problem” understates the horrors by many magnitudes. And yet, if you carefully consider the complexities of Middle East politics you realize that the current war is not the problem, it is merely a symptom of the problem. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan recently made this observation on the internet. She and others believe that when Israel wipes out Hamas this will not solve the problem of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. The destruction of Hamas means only that this one terrorist organization will no longer attack Israel and will cease to be a symptom of the problem. The treatment of this one symptom, however, does not cure the disease that infects the entire region. So what is the problem? Well, if I was Dr. House, I’d read medical journals to see if there were similar case studies. Since I’m not a doctor and Middle East conflict is not a medical problem, I must find my similar case study in a different journal called The Book of Mormon. This journal includes a double-blind case study that sampled wars between the Lamanites and Nephites for almost 1000 years. Whenever the Nephites defeated the Lamanites in battle‒symptom solved. Unfortunately, their genocidal problem never went away. Fortunately, Dr. Alma reported a cure in the journal of Alma 31:5, saying: “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just--yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them--therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” Dr. Alma’s similar case study indicates that the Middle East problem is spiritual. It’s not political, nor is it temporal. Another diagnostic journal called the Doctrine and Covenants states that, “verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.” (D&C 29:34) Since the Middle East problem is obviously spiritual, it requires a spiritual cure. Now that the diagnosis has been made, I can report the good news and bad news to the family of our patient. The good news is that we have a diagnosis of the problem and there is a cure. The bad news is that no one in the Middle East is willing to “try the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5) to cure their problem. Therefore, the symptoms of the problem in the Middle East‒and in places all over the world‒will persist. This means that nations will continue to prescribe war in higher and higher doses to treat the symptoms of worldly problems. When one dose of war doesn’t solve the problem, the dosage is doubled and then doubled again when the problem persists. I wish I had a better prognosis. Unfortunately, the intensity of wars and symptoms of wars shall continue to increase because most people and nations fail to administer “the word of God” as the only prescription that will solve the problems of the world.

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Israel-Hamas: A Look Through the Lens of Prophecy 

The night before Jesus Christ was crucified, he traveled through the temple precincts with his disciples enroute to the mount of Olives (Matt 24:1). In the courtyards of the temple, Jesus told them that this magnificent structure would be destroyed until one stone would not be left standing on the other (Matt 24:2). When the small company arrived on the mount, the disciples were naturally curious to know when this prophecy would be fulfilled and they asked: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt 24:3) The disciples asked two questions, which they thought had just one answer. They thought the destruction of Herod’s temple would coincide in time with Christ’s Second Coming and the end of the world. In Matthew’s account, Jesus answered the second question first. He predicted that the sign of his Second Coming would be given after the world shall first “hear of wars and rumours of wars. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt 24:6-8). Joseph Smith made an inspired revision of Matthew 24, which is found in The Pearl of Great Price, and is called Joseph Smith-Matthew. The Prophet re-ordered the verses to clarify that when the temple of Herod was destroyed in 70 AD, this event would be “only the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon [the Jewish people]” (JS-M 1:19). History has proven the accuracy of this prediction. For almost 2000 years since the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews have been forced to “wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and … hated among all nations” (1 Ne 19:14). When Christ was among the Nephites after his resurrection, he reaffirmed that “I have caused … [the Jews] to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among [the Gentiles], and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them” (3 Ne 16:9). The slaughter of innocent Jews on October 7 is a fulfillment of these prophesies‒among many others. The anti-Israel protesters on college campuses since October 7 also evidence the continuing fulfillment of these prophecies. These events reflect the continuation and escalation of “the beginning of sorrows” among the Jewish people, as prophesied in JS-Matthew 1:19. The Israel-Hamas war also fulfills the prophecy recorded by Matthew. No one can doubt that the current conflict is a continuation of the “wars and rumours of wars” (Matt 24:6) that must occur before the Second Coming. The images of destruction in Gaza reflect an escalation of the “beginning of sorrows” (Matt 24:8) that are ever-present in wars of the modern era. Furthermore, if Iran and/or its militant proxies join the Israel-Hamas war to make this a regional conflict, this will add to the beginning of sorrows, but the end is not yet. Jesus said, “Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect's sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.” (JS-M 1:23) My blog from October 20, 2023 (see, The Israel-Hamas War: Is this the Start of Armageddon?) explains why the beginning of sorrows in the current conflict are not the end we call Armageddon. I also discuss this conflict in more detail in my podcast from October 22 (see, YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist). The current conflict and threats of U.S. involvement in a regional conflict are troubling, even though the Savior specifically said, “be not troubled.” We can’t help ourselves, however, and why should we not be troubled? The simple answer is that Christ could see the beginning of sorrows, which means he could also see the ending of sorrows. Let me clarify what that means for those who have faith in Christ’s ability to see the end from the beginning. Today we find ourselves in the midst of a man-made tempest like the troubling tempest encountered by the disciples when they were sailing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were sure that they were about to die in the storm and cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:30) They should not have been troubled because he was in the boat with them as he is now in the boat with us. From Christ’s position in the back of the boat, “he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40) So also in this latest tempest we call the Israel-Hamas war, the Savior tells us, “See that ye be not troubled” (JS-M 1:23). He’s with us in the boat. He can both see and cause the calm at the end of this latest beginning of sorrows. There is no reason to be troubled if we have faith in Christ.

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The Book of Revelation Numerology and Symbols

Numerology can mean different things to different people. If I were a fortune teller, I would use numerology as a mystical means to predict future events. Prior to the 20th century, numerology of this kind was called arithmancy‒an occult that involved supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs and practices. In this false system of worship, numbers have a divine relationship to corresponding events. This form of numerology is frequently associated with the paranormal, astrology, and divinatory arts. On the opposite end of the belief spectrum, if I was a student of the Bible‒which I am‒I would use numerology to study the meaning and significance of numbers found in the Book of Revelation. Numbers in the Revelation are used in a symbolic way to reveal God’s message. These figurative figures represent literal truths. Thus, if “a picture can speak a thousand words,” then symbolic numbers can do the same thing. The question is, which thousand words are the symbolic numbers speaking? To bring some clarity to this subject, this blog provides a summary of the numbers frequently used in the Book of Revelation and their symbolic significance. For a deeper dive into this subject, check out my video podcast this Sunday on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist. The podcast will go through these numbers in more detail with illustrations of their use in both Biblical and secular contexts. Here’s the list of numbers and their symbolic meaning: The number three (3) is a divine number associated with the Godhead. It symbolizes completeness in both a sacred and secular context. The number three and a half (3½) is an evil number because it is half of the perfect number seven. It also identifies an age of evil that ends in judgment. This number has several forms in the Book of Revelation, including 42 months (3½ years), 1260 days (3½ years), and a “time, times and half time” (1 + 2 + ½ = 3½). All these represent the dominion of an evil power during the period of 3½ days, 3½ years, or even 3½ decades. The number four (4) is the world number. It represents a geographical whole, as measured by the four cardinal points of the compass. The number is often expressed by four words grouped together, such as all (1) nations, (2) kindreds, (3) tongues, and (4) people. The elect will be gathered from the four-quarters of the earth and from the four winds. Four also expresses the requirement to love God completely with the whole “heart, might, mind and strength.” The number six (6) is also an evil number because it approaches, but falls one short of, the perfect number seven. Six is also evil because it is half of the sacred number twelve. The number seven (7) is the most used number in the Book of Revelation and the Bible as a whole. This sacred number represents perfection and fullness in many ancient cultures. It is used in both religious practices and for secular purposes. The number eight (8) represents a new era and new life, especially after the perfected age of seven is complete. The best illustration of its use is the age of accountability and baptism which occurs at age eight. After baptism, a person begins a new spiritual life. The number ten (10) is the universal number for wholeness and completeness, including “the whole of a part.” Ten can also express perfection, but not in a sacred sense like the number seven. The number twelve (12) is a sacred number rooted in the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Twelve is therefore called the “priesthood number” or “church number.” It symbolizes perfection and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. The patriarchal system of government in the House of Israel is also based on the number twelve. The foregoing numbers can be combined to enhance their fundamental meanings. For example, the perfect number seven is equal to the divine number three (3) plus the world number four (4). The number seventy (70) is seven (7) multiplied by ten (10) to express a multitude or a prophetic period of years. Similarly, the imperfect number six is perfectly imperfect if three sixes are combined to form the number 666, which describes the Second Beast in Revelation 13:18. Finally, the priesthood number twelve squared (12x12 = 144), when multiplied by the superlative number of 1000 (10x10x10), becomes a symbol for the fullness of priesthood power and exaltation-worthy saints in the number 144,000. With these numerical explanations in mind, we go now to the Shakespearean play of Romeo and Juliet. In Act 2, scene 2, Juliet Capulet was talking to herself on her balcony about her beloved Romeo Montaque. Juliet laments the fact that Romeo is in the family of her family’s enemy‒which makes their love forbidden. From the balcony, she said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words, a name is just a label and the essence of the person remains the same regardless of the name. Now, imagine if Shakespeare had been a Biblical numerologist instead of a hopeless romantic. Juliet would have said: “A seven by any other number would mean the same thing.” The play would have been a total dud because‒as we now know‒a number used in the Book of Revelation is not the same by any other name.

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The Israel-Hamas War: Is This the Start of Armageddon?

Every major conflict in the modern Middle East invariably leads people to ask the same question: Is this the start of Armageddon? The Israel-Hamas War is no different. Within days of the October 7, 2023, atrocities by Hamas, the “A” word (Armageddon) re-surfaced in mainstream media reports. For example, an op-ed piece from The Hill on October 15 was published with the title: “Hamas’s march to Armageddon.” Similarly, Ari Shavit, an author and Middle East expert, said that “If Hezbollah gets involved, it’s Armageddon.” With all due respect to Mr. Shavit, I’m not so sure. I’ve spent 14 years reading, re-reading, and researching the Book of Revelation, which is the source of the many allusions to Armageddon. I can therefore say with great confidence that John the Revelator does not mention Hezbollah in his description of Armageddon. Furthermore, even if Iran joins the current conflict on the side of Hamas and the United States is dragged in as a de facto participant with Israel, I still say that this “latest version” of the Israel-Hamas War is not the start of Armageddon. I refer to the current conflict as the latest version of war between the Israelis and Palestinians because they’ve been fighting and killing each other for at least the last 40 years. Let’s not forget the First Intifada in 1987, when a Palestinian uprising led to the deaths of 200 Israelis and 2000 Palestinians. The Second Intifada‒known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada‒began on September 28, 2000, and continued for five years. This uprising led to the deaths of 1,100 Israelis and 3,400 Palestinians. Then came the Israel-Hamas War of 2014, which lasted for seven weeks and led to the deaths of 72 Israelis and 2300 Palestinians. In the current conflict, Hamas killed more than 1400 Israelis on the first day and over 3000 Palestinians have died since then. As in past conflicts, we can be sure that this consistently lop-sided body count will only get worse during Israel’s forthcoming ground offensive. This latest Palestinian incursion into Israel was code-named “Al-Aqsa Storm,” which alludes to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the temple mount in Jerusalem. The Palestinians used the same name to identify the Second Intifada in 2000. The code name is a widespread call to arms directed to all Palestinians and Arabs. It thus appears that the stage has been set for a regional conflict of Biblical and apocalyptic proportions. However, I remain convinced that this is not the start of Armageddon. So how can I be so certain that this latest version of the Israel-Hamas War is not the start of Armageddon? The answer lies in the Book of Revelation itself. More specifically, the answer lies in the revelatory structure of the book. Biblical scholars fundamentally disagree about the Book of Revelation structure, including the basic question of whether it is chronological or non-chronological. However, most scholars do accept a chronological structure, subject to certain interruptions in the sequential flow that they call “teaching interludes.” In my book‒the Book of Revelation Doctrinal Commentary: Unveiling Jesus Christ‒I interpret John’s visions as strictly chronological. I further believe that the so-called interludes are integral parts of the chronological content. The only exception to this is the flashback that begins in Revelation 12 and ends in Revelation 14. If you remove these flashback chapters, then the prophetic parts of John’s visions are strictly chronological. Once you accept the basic premise that John’s visions are chronological, the timing of Armageddon is not difficult to decipher. John’s chronological account begins with the image of a book with seven seals in Revelation 5. Each seal represents a 1000-year period. (D&C 77:6) Thus, the first four seals‒depicted by the four horsemen of the apocalypse‒represent the first four thousand years of the earth’s temporal history from the fall of Adam until the birth of Jesus Christ. John describes these first four seals in Revelation 6:1-8, and the fifth seal‒or fifth period of 1000 years‒in Revelation 6:9-11. He then describes the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12 through the end of chapter 7. The sixth seal describes the events of the last days or the days in which we now live. Notice that John used 11 verses to describe the first 5000 years of the earth’s temporal history and 23 verses to describe the events in our day. According to John’s account, the sixth seal will end with a massive earthquake that will be so powerful that “every mountain and island [will be] moved out of their places.” (Rev 6:14) That earthquake hasn’t happened yet. Nor has there been a time in the last 1000 years when there was a blackened sun, a blood-red moon, and stars that fall like untimely figs. (Rev 6:12-13) Since these final events of the sixth seal haven’t happened yet, we can’t possibly conclude that Armageddon has begun. John doesn’t get to Armageddon until chapter 9. In other words, we’re now living in the last days that are still two chapters away from Armageddon. When we get to Revelation 9:15‒with a lot of other events in between‒Armageddon will start at a specific “hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.” Based on the chronological structure used by John in the Book of Revelation, it’s easy to conclude that this latest version of the Israel-Hamas War is not the start of Armageddon. That does not mean, however, that one has nothing to do with the other. This latest version is just one war in a series of escalating wars that will continue to worsen until “the inhabitants of the earth [are] 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” at the Second Coming. (D&C 87:6) Armageddon is coming. Of this, there should be no doubt. But this latest version of the war between Israel and Hamas is little more than a movie trailer of scenes to coming attractions. For a more complete explanation of future events based on the chronological content in the Book of Revelation, check out my podcast this Sunday on YouTube@UnveilingJesusChrist, and subscribe for more podcasts like this in the future.

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Meat Packing and the Book of Revelation: A Modern Parable-ish

Have you ever wondered why most people don’t understand the Book of Revelation? Surprisingly, the answer to this question can be found at the Deseret meat processing facility in Spanish Fork, Utah. About a week ago, I volunteered at this facility along with my wife (Jan) and one other sister from our ward. Jan spent her time vacuum-sealing pork roasts, and I spent my time in the hamburger area where we packaged about 4,000 pounds of hamburger in about two hours. So, here’s what happened. The process began with these large stainless-steel carts that looked like vintage mining carts on wheels. Each cart was filled with about 500 pounds of unpackaged hamburger. A lift raised the cart about 10 feet in the air and dumped the 500 pounds of hamburger from the cart into a big funnel that fed the packaging machine. As the hamburger was fed into the machine it would be forced through a 1½-inch stainless-steel tube at a very high rate. As the hamburger came shooting through the steel tube it would fill a plastic wrapper that was then sealed on both ends with metal clips. The finished product looked like a large sausage that was about 8 inches long, 1½ inches in diameter, and weighing one pound each. The rather amazing thing about the packaging process was the speed. Each tube of packaged hamburger came shooting out of the machine at the rate of about one every second. As these tubes of hamburger came shooting out of the machine, it took six people to box them. One person assembled the boxes that would be filled with 28 tubes of hamburger in each box. Two people had to catch the hamburger tubes and quickly arrange them in the boxes. A fourth person had to seal each box and place it on a scale. That’s where I came in. After the box was weighed, a machine created a label that I placed on the corner of each box. Hey! It’s not as easy as it sounds. Once I labeled each box, I handed the 28-pound box to our sixth man, who palletized the boxes. I know. I know. You’re wondering where does the Book of Revelation come in with all this meat packing. I’m almost there. Remember Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Now, given the speed of the packaging machine, I was labeling a 28-pound box of hamburger about every 30 seconds. Since I was an excellent labeling person‒if I do say so myself‒it only took me about 10 to 15 seconds to place the label on the box and hand it off to the palletizer. That left me with another 15 to 20 seconds between each box to watch the operation of the packaging machine. I thought this machine was a remarkable feat of engineering and it fascinated me. Unfortunately, I never did get a very good look at how the machine was engineered and how it actually worked because I had to spend so much of my time perfectly placing labels on the boxes. That’s a big part of the answer to your question, isn’t it? “Hold on. What was my question again,” you ask? The question is why do most people not understand the Book of Revelation? One big reason is because we don’t have the time. We’re all too busy putting labels on boxes or arranging tubes of hamburger that fly at us in this thing we call life. For this reason, we don’t have time to inspect the intricacies and operation of this thing we call the Book of Revelation. Then again, there are those who‒for whatever reason‒just don’t seem too interested in a machine that can package a pound of hamburger in one second. For such people, the book that is this machine holds no fascination and no curiosity. That’s unfortunate because they’ll never know what they’re missing. Now, I will admit that the machine was a little loud and the room was pretty chilly. It is, after all, a meat processing facility. These don’t sound like ideal conditions for a revelatory experience. But after working a short time the room felt very comfortable‒if not slightly warm. Furthermore, after a while, I didn’t even notice the sound of the machine. My message is this, don’t let little things or distractions prevent you from having and enjoying a Book of Revelation experience. Here’s another image straight from the Book of Revelation. At the meat processing facility we all wore white smocks and looked like the heavenly angels with white robes from Revelation 6:11, 7:9, and 7:13. Now, if that image doesn’t conjure up your interest in a revelatory meat packing experience, I don’t know what will. The angelic workers also wore hairnets, but I think it may be a bit of a stretch to suggest that the hairnets are like the gold crowns worn by exalted saints in Revelation 4:4. In fact, I’d have to say that the hairnet was definitely not a good look for me. But that’s just my vanity run amuck. Unfortunately, too many people fall into the same trap. They choose to ignore things that are deeply spiritual because it’s just not a good look for them. It’s sad really, that the protective presence of a spiritual hairnet keeps prideful people from doing the things in their lives that really matter most. So here’s the bottom line. If you want to understand the Book of Revelation you need to put on your hairnet and take a spiritual journey to the place where you’ll receive a white robe as you learn the operational intricacies of the Book of Revelation. To help you understand the inner workings of this marvelous machine, I’ll be podcasting about the structure, the numbers and the symbols in the Book of Revelation for the next two weeks on YouTube @UnveilingJesusChrist. You can also find my Sunday audio podcasts on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. So if you have 15 or 20 seconds to spare during each minute of your meat-packing experience, you can find out what makes the Book of Revelation incredibly fascinating and a marvel of spiritual engineering. I’ll see you on the podcast. Look for the guy with the hairnet and a white smock.

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Unearthing the Meaning of the Book of Revelation

A few days ago‒in the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference‒Elder Dale Renlund described the 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. This discovery is widely considered to be one of the most famous archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. It is singularly famous because the tomb was almost completely intact; whereas the tombs of most Egyptian Pharaohs were plundered long ago by graverobbers. Before its discovery in 1922, Tutankhamun's tomb was hidden and left mostly undisturbed for almost 3000 years. Howard Carter, a British archeologist, discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb with funding provided by George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. Elder Renlund explained that Carter spent five years looking for Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings without success. Eventually, Carnarvon decided to stop funding the fruitless endeavor. However, Carter pleaded with Carnarvon to fund one more season of searching and Carnarvon ultimately agreed. It was then that Carter realized that the ground beneath their base camp was the only place in the Valley of the Kings that had not been fully excavated. Carter began excavating in the area of the base camp and discovered the steps leading down to the tomb of Tutankhamun within a few days. Elder Renlund observed that: “During those years of ineffectual searching, Carter and Carnarvon had overlooked what was literally under their feet.” Elder Renlund used the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb as an illustration of how people sometimes look beyond the mark. That is, they fail to recognize a treasure that is literally under their feet or right before their very eyes. Elder Renlund said that Carter and Carnarvon effectively “looked beyond the mark” in the same way the Jews looked beyond the mark when they failed to recognize Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah when he was right in front of them. The Book of Revelation is a modern example of a priceless artifact that has long been hidden beneath and behind the apocalyptic images of John the Revelator. It is the spiritual equivalent of Tutankhamun’s tomb which is metaphorically beneath our feet and literally before our very eyes. Unfortunately, many people today look beyond this revelatory mark and the Book of Revelation content remains hidden because people of all religions fail to recognize the relevance of the Revelation in the modern world. Long ago, the prophet Moroni prophesied that the Book of Revelation would be discovered “again” for the first time in the latter days. This remarkable prophecy is found in Ether 4, where Moroni‒the sole survivor of the Nephite civilization‒wrote about his vision of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In that Second Coming context, the Lord said to Moroni that “Then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed. Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land.” (Ether 4:16-17) That’s a pretty profound prophecy of the Book of Revelation coming forth in the latter days. The Revelation was written over 1900 years ago, but Moroni prophesied of its coming forth in the latter days leading up to the Second Coming. In other words, this is the day when the content of the Book of Revelation is discovered, understood, and applied in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not Howard Carter and I’m not searching for the treasures of Pharoahs in the Valley of the Kings. However, 14 years ago I discovered the Book of Revelation again for the first time. Since then, I have been unearthing the hidden meanings of John’s apocalyptic images just as Carter unearthed the hidden tomb of Tutankhamun with its many treasures. I have published the findings of my excavations in the book entitled The Book of Revelation Doctrinal Commentary: Unveiling Jesus Christ, which you can order online at UnveilingJesusChrist.com as of October 1, 2023. You’ll also find a description of my excavations in my YouTube podcasts that also began on October 1, 2023‒the same day that Elder Renlund described Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. My podcasts can be found on the “Unveiling Jesus Christ” channel on YouTube. @UnveilingJesusChrist I invite you to look at all my excavations so that you too can discover or re-discover for the first time the “revelations which I [the Lord] have caused to be written by my servant John.” As you make this discovery, the treasure we call the Book of Revelation will “be unfolded” in your eyes as it will be “in the eyes of all the people” according to Moroni’s prophesy of our day. (Ether 4:16) Now is not the time to withhold the investment of your time in this most important excavation of the 21st century. The treasure of the Book of Revelation is metaphorically beneath your feet and before your very eyes. Do not make the mistake of looking beyond the mark in your own discovery of this important treasure.

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A Firm Foundation

President Gordon B. Hinckley said “You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.” President Hinckley’s counsel applies to both physical foundations and spiritual foundations. So, let’s apply the physics of physical foundations to the specifics of our spiritual foundation. Several years ago, my family and I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. Much of the museum is underground in the place where the foundation was (and still is) located for one of the Twin Towers destroyed on September 11, 2001. I never gave much thought about the foundations for the Twin Towers until I saw the foundation footings up close and personal about 70 feet below the city sidewalks. When the foundations were built for the buildings located on the World Trade Center complex, contractors had to remove more than a million cubic yards of dirt called overburden to get down to the bedrock on which the foundations were built. The foundations in the museum are still intact even though almost 500,000 tons of building materials in each building came crashing down on the foundations during the 9/11 attack. The solid foundations that I saw were an inspiring site in the backdrop of disaster. Surely, the construction of our spiritual foundations can be no less impressive and immovable, no less strong, and no less secure. Every day there are relentless attacks upon our faith in, and our testimonies of, Jesus Christ. Our foundations must be built upon the bedrock of Jesus Christ, as he alluded to when he described “a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Matt 7:26; 3 Ne 14:26; and see Hel 5:12). The scriptures provide several illustrations of what happens when people fail to build for themselves a strong spiritual foundation. For example, in 1 Nephi 11-12, Lehi saw a great and spacious building filled with people adorned in costly clothing. The building stood in the air as a representation of “the vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men" (1 Ne. 12:18). The building was in the air to represent that it had no foundation. Nephi saw the fall of the great and spacious building and said, “The fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (1 Ne 11:36). The apostle John was one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and he had a parallel vision of the latter days in Revelation 17. In that chapter, John saw a symbolic woman “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls…. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT” (Rev 17:4-5). The woman did not have a firm foundation and John said she “sitteth upon many waters” (Rev 17:1) that represent “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Rev 17:15). In other words, the latter-day woman (Modern Babylon) is supported by wicked people and institutions that will not support her when she is destroyed in a single day and hour at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. (Rev 18:9). The waters of wickedness are a poor substitute for the foundational bedrock of Jesus Christ. John the Revelator provides more details about the Second Coming in the Book of Revelation than any other book of ancient scripture that now exists. In fact, Nephi was told specifically that he could not write his vision of the latter days because John was foreordained to do so. (1 Ne 14:24-25). “Here’s the problem,” you say. “I don’t sufficiently understand all John’s imagery and symbols to figure out what he’s really saying to prepare me for the spiritual and physical attacks coming my way.” Well, guess what? You need to remove about a million cubic yards of dirt and overburden to get down to the bedrock of John’s Revelation and then you can begin to build your spiritual foundation on what he has to say. The bedrock of Christ is waiting to be unveiled through your excavation efforts. Fortunately, I operated heavy equipment on my grandfather’s ranch since I was eight (8) years old. I know all about digging and excavating and I’m here to help. During the next two months, I’m going to help you get rid of all the overburden in the Book of Revelation before you begin your Come, Follow Me study of the Revelation in December 2024. Starting on October 1, 2024, I will begin podcasting on the YouTube channel called “Unveiling Jesus Christ.” We will begin with the overburden basics that include the following podcasts: October 1: Who is John the Revelator? October 8: The History of the Revelation and Canonization October 15: The Date of the Revelation October 22: The Revelation Made Plain October 29: Organization and Structure of the Revelation. For additional information about upcoming podcasts go to UnveilingJesusChrist.com or subscribe to my channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@UnveilingJesusChrist-oi9on Christ can be unveiled to you in the Book of Revelation, but that unveiling will occur only as you understand the Revelation. But you must also excavate away the overburdens of life that prevent you from building your spiritual foundation. If you remove the million cubic yards of overburden in your lives and build upon Jesus Christ as the bedrock of your foundation, you can then build the great superstructure of your life on a great foundation, just as President Hinckley envisioned for you.

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Who is John the Revelator, really?

Robert Redford and Paul Newman starred in the 1969 movie called “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” This movie was about two train robbers from Wyoming in 1899. The railroad hired a top-notch posse to track down the two affable outlaws and, at one point in the movie, the posse was hot on their trail. No matter what Butch and Sundance did to get away, they couldn’t shake the posse and they kept asking themselves, “Who are these guys?” This made me think about what it will be like when Hollywood makes a movie about the Book of Revelation through the eyes of John the Revelator. The opening credits will barely be over and everyone at the premier will be asking themselves, “Who was this guy?” Let’s face it, seven volumes of Harry Potter have proven that the imagery of J. K. Rowling’s imagination is nothing compared to the images that John the Revelator included in the one Book of Revelation. So who is this guy, really? Jesus nicknamed John and his brother James the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), which makes me wonder if they were a little bit like the likable outlaws, Butch and Sundance. You think I’m kidding, but you need to remember that when some Samaritans were disrespectful toward the Savior, James and John suggested that they call down fire from heaven to destroy them. (Luke 9:51-56). Now that’s a suggestion you don’t hear every day. Look, if you really want to know who John the Revelator is, you need to saddle up and join the posse that’s already in pursuit at UnveilingJesusChrist.com. There’s no end to the posse-bilities of what you will really track down about this guy before the Hollywood premiere comes out. I’ll see you there.

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John 911

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, at 8:46 AM (New York time) American Airlines, Flight 11, struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. I was almost 3,000 miles away in Elk Grove, California when that happened. A few minutes after 6:00 AM (California time), I was driving my car on the way to teach an early-morning seminary class. The radio announcer on KFBK 1530 said that a plane had crashed into the north tower. I thought to myself, what a horrible and tragic accident. As I approached the intersection of Franklin Blvd. and Elk Grove Blvd., the radio announcer said that a second plane had struck the south tower. That moment became frozen in time. When momentous events like this happen, you never forget exactly where you were. You never forget exactly what you felt. You just never forget. And even though I couldn’t see what was going on in New York, I knew exactly what was going on. I could see everything in my mind’s eye. This was no accident. I knew it in a moment. The rest of the day was a blur, but I do remember the images of billowing smoke on TV from the two burning towers when I saw them later that morning. The images looked exactly the way I envisioned them when I heard there was a second plane. Sometimes you can just know without knowing and you can see without seeing. I call that my 911 experience. I’m sure my 911 experience is not unique. In fact, I’m sure that for many people the experience was much more poignant than my own, much more momentous, more memorable, and more life-changing. After all, I was almost 3000 miles away from ground zero. I didn’t personally know anyone who was killed or injured in any of the attacks on that day. I didn’t know any of the first responders who went up the stairs as masses of people were coming down. Even though I was a very distant observer of 911, I’ll never forget the miseries or the miracles of the experience. Let me now relate my 911 experience to a man who lived in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. This man was born blind from his birth. When the disciples of Jesus saw this man begging for alms in the street they asked, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) The disciples did not know and could not see that in this tragic figure of a man “the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3) It is true that even in great and momentous 911 tragedies there are the works of God and they are manifest. We see them without seeing and we know them without knowing. Jesus then “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” (John 9:6) No other instructions were given for this sightless man to know what would happen. “He [simply] went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” (John 9:7) This man’s encounter with Jesus became a moment frozen in time. He would never forget exactly where he was when his eyes were anointed by a man he could not see. He would never forget exactly what he felt when his eyes were anointed by a man he did not know. He could just never forget. It was for him a 911 moment. Without seeing he could see and without knowing he knew exactly what awaited him at Siloam. And so he went. When he was asked later how his blindness had been healed “He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.” (John 9:11)

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Polycarp: A man who was virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy

According to the 13th Article of Faith, we seek after “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” That’s not always easy. Just ask Polycarp. “Polly who?” “Polly Anna?” “No. No. No. Polycarp.” You wouldn’t know this praiseworthy man unless you lived at the turn of the first century AD. He was a personal friend of John the Revelator and the bishop of the Church at Smyrna for many years. When John wrote his second letter to the Church at Smyrna in 96 AD (Revelation 2:8-11), he was writing to his good friend Polycarp. Now, fast forward to the year 155 AD, and the martyrdom of John’s friend. The heart-rending details of Polycarp’s death have been preserved in the writings of several Christian fathers. Their words remind me of what it sometimes takes to seek after things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy. Three days before he died, Polycarp had a dream that he would be burned at the stake. On the third day thereafter, he was taken before the Roman proconsul, Stratius Quadratus, who urged Polycarp to recant his testimony of Christ, saying: “Swear by Caesar's fortune, and I will release thee.” Here is what I find to be virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy. Polycarp stood firm in his testimony of Jesus Christ and said: “Eighty and six years have I served him and he never did me wrong: how then can I revile my King and my Savior?” Polycarp’s Jewish onlookers then demanded his death by burning, and they hastily gathered the wood for the fire even though it was for them the Sabbath day. When the wood for the fire was set, “The old man ungirded himself, laid aside his garments, and took his place in the midst of the fuel; and when they would have secured him with nails to the stake, said, ‘Let me remain as I am; for he that has enabled me to brave the fire will so strengthen me that, without your fastening me with nails, I shall, unmoved, endure its fierceness.’” (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., iv. 15) I wish to God that we could all be so virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy.

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Struggling to understand the Book of Revelation? Submit a Gospel RFI

Joseph Smith said the Book of Revelation was the plainest book that God ever caused to be written. However, to many people, this book seems more like the ambiguous construction drawings for the Sonoma County Prison (SCP) in Santa Rosa, California. The ambiguous drawings on that construction project made for a big lawsuit in the late 1990s. It took 122 hearing days to decide one fundamental question: What was the architect’s intent when he designed the prison? The architect said, “My intent was A.” The contractors said, “But your plans say B.” The owner said, “I was supposed to get C.” The inspector said, “It looks to me like you built D.” The SCP lawsuit took a plethora of lawyers 122 days and millions of dollars to sort out ABCD. There are, of course, procedures to address the ABCDs that come up during construction before they turn into big lawsuits. For example, when the contractor discovers a potential ambiguity in the plans, he studies the problem and then writes a “Request for Information” (RFI) to the architect. Typically, the RFI also suggests a solution. On a complex project like the SCP, there can be hundreds of RFI’s that help to clarify and make plain the intent of the architect. That brings us to the Book of Revelation‒the most complex book of scripture we have. Given the complexity of this book, you will need to submit some RFI’s to understand the intent of the architect. Coincidently, John the Revelator is not the architect. He’s just the draftsman who works for the architect. Also‒and this is important‒when you submit your RFI’s don’t just say, “I don’t understand” and expect a response. The architect has said that when you submit an RFI, “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8) Now that we understand the RFI process, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. We have a lot of RFI’s to prepare and send to the architect so that he can make plain the apparent ambiguities in the Book of Revelation.

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Horseshoeing and avoiding spiritually dangerous nails

The four horses of the Apocalypse (Rev 6:2-8). Have you ever wondered if this foursome talks about pedicures for their hooves when they get together? I was just wondering because my wife and daughters occasionally talk about their nails and pedicures when they get together. Sometimes they go to their pedicurist in a group. Like-minded horses of the Apocalypse must go to a farrier, who specializes in equine hoof care, including their horseshoes. Now, I’m not a farrier and I don’t play one on TV, but I did learn to shoe horses when I was growing up. I learned that horseshoeing is a dangerous business. Here’s why. First, you have to rest the horse’s leg on or between your own legs. Then, with the leg of the horse resting on your own, you drive very sharp nails through the shoe and into the bottom of the horse’s hoof with a hammer until the nail protrudes through the top of the hoof. Each time you drive a nail you must clip off the top of the nail quickly just in case the horse pulls back suddenly. If the horse pulls back before the nail is clipped…. Well, let’s just say you might be making a trip to the emergency room to stitch up a very deep gash in your upper leg. You may think it’s more efficient to drive all the nails into the hoof at once and clip them together rather than switching tools to clip each nail individually. If you do this, however, the risk of injury increases geometrically. In other words, if you don’t clip each individual nail there could be four nails ripping through your leg when the horse pulls back unexpectedly. So, here's the life lesson: Spiritually dangerous nails emerge in our lives every day. You may think you’re not a farrier‒just like I’m not a farrier‒but the horses of the Apocalypse are beating down our doors to have their hooves “pedicured.” We can’t avoid them. All we can do is make sure that we clip the individual nails that emerge as we’re shoeing the apocalyptic horses in our lives. We must not and cannot let the risks from spiritual nails accumulate in our lives. Life is too busy for us to spend all our time in spiritual emergency rooms attending to wounds that can be avoided with just a little extra care on our part.

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Prepare for the revelation which is to come

In December 1833, the Lord commanded his people to stand in holy places “And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil … shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.” (D&C 101:23) This latter-day scripture tells us that the revelation which is to come is the unveiling of Jesus Christ at his Second Coming. It’s the apocalypse, which comes from the Greek word meaning “revelation or unveiling.” People love unveilings, don’t they? When Apple is unveiling a new iPhone, millions of people tune in to watch. After weeks and months of teasers and trailers, millions of people line up at theaters across the country for the unveiling of the latest and greatest on the big screen. So let’s talk apocalypse‒the revelation which is to come‒the unveiling of unveilings‒when all flesh shall see Christ together on the big screen we call the world. In anticipation of Christ’s unveiling of unveilings, please allow me to add my own teaser. It’s called UnveilingJesusChrist.com, a new website devoted to this namesake. This website will introduce you to a study of the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) through a new two-volume book called The Book of Revelation Doctrinal Commentary: Unveiling Jesus Christ. It’s the most extensive and detailed verse-by-verse commentary ever written about the Book of Revelation. It will be available in print on October 1, 2023, in advance of your Come Follow Me studies of the Book of Revelation in December of this year. This website is not the unveiling of unveilings, but it has a lot to say about it. And I’m not just teasing. I’ll see you there!

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I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you quickly

“I come quickly.” What does that really mean? It must be pretty important because that exact phrase appears ten times in the Doctrine and Covenants. John the Revelator used the same phrase four times in the Book of Revelation. His final use of the phrase can be found in the second to the last verse of the last chapter of the last book of the entire Bible, saying: “Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). From the visions of both John and Joseph, the use of this phrase is rather impressive both qualitatively and quantitatively. But what does it mean? The difficulty in definition stems from the fact that John wrote four times “I come quickly” and he did so in 96 AD. It has now been 1900+ years and still no Lord Jesus. The ten occasions of “I come quickly” in the Doctrine and Covenants came even more emphatically in the 1830s, but that’s still almost 200 years ago, and still no Lord Jesus. We must consider, of course, that Peter said “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet 3:8). Thus, from the Lord’s perspective, it’s been less than two days since he first promised to come quickly. Perhaps I just need to be more patient. On the other hand, when the Lord said “I come quickly” on 14 different occasions, I don’t think he expected us to consider this promise and assurance from his perspective only. At the last supper, he promised his apostles the second comforter, saying: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). For those who stand in need of comfort today, consider this one-word addition to the Savior’s past promise that still applies today: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you quickly.” If you live worthy to be in the presence of Lord Jesus in your individual life, he has promised you 14 times that I come quickly. Make that 15 promises: I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

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He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver

When people talk about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, they often describe him metaphorically as a close companion who is walking beside them or even carrying them during their most trying times. But, does it sometimes feel like he’s sitting down on the job? In other words, do we sometimes feel like he is not as attentive or concerned about our fiery trials as he should be? If you’re feeling that way, I invite you to learn something about sitting from the prophet Malachi. He described the Savior as a refiner and purifier of silver. That’s a metaphorical symbol for you and I. Malachi said, “[Christ] is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Mal. 3:2-3) Did you notice what Malachi said? The Savior is working over an open fire and he’s sitting down on the job. Why is that? Refining silver is a delicate process. If the fire is too hot or the silver is not continuously stirred it can scorch and the metal will be ruined. He must also sit to continuously remove the dross (impurities) as they rise to the surface during the heating process. Thus, the refiner “sits on the job” because the refining process demands his continuous presence and undivided attention. Sometimes all we feel is the heat and we fail to recognize that he’s stirring us continuously. He’s there to remove every little impurity from each of us during our refining process. Once Christ has removed all our impurities and completed our refinement, he shall look down upon us from the throne upon which he sits and shall see in the silver a reflection of himself. Alma used a similar metaphor when he asked “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances?” (Alma 5:14) Let us be grateful for a Savior who’s sitting down on the job when we feel the fires of refinement in our lives and let us be grateful that he’s refining us in his image.

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