Quit Counting!

This blog is part of my ZionBound series.  The full series can be read in post order here.

3in1On many occasions I’ve had the opportunity to chat with members of other Latter Day Restoration factions (often including members of the Restoration Branches, the Temple Lot, LDS, and others).  Many of these conversations have left me with the impression that a lot of members of these other groups tend to think that the purpose of the Restoration is to be the Restored Church.  I also happen to know that a lot of members of Community of Christ feel the same way.  However, this is in fact not the case.

Let me state at this early point that I do believe with all my heart that Community of Christ is the Restored Church; and that the very concept of the Restoration is integral to our existence.

However, we do not exist to be the Restored Church.  The Restored Church does not exist to be the Restored Church.  Or to be the Restoration.   Say it anyway you want,  but the simple fact is, we were not restored to be the Restored Church.  That is, quite simply, just what we happen to be, as a result of the Restoration having taken place.

This might be a bit of a mind snap, so let me try to clarify what I mean.  What is “the Restoration” a restoration of?  Or, what is the Restored Church a restoration of?  Quite simply, Christ’s church.  That’s it.  However, its an important distinction that I feel is often overlooked.

I’ll say it again.  We were not established to be the Restored Church.  We *are* the Restored Church, but we were created to be, and are, first and foremost, “the church”.  If you have traditional Restoration beliefs, you have to accept this as valid.

I feel this all warrants highlighting, because, as I mentioned above, many people in Latter Day Restoration factions (again, including a large number of us) tend to overlook this foundational truth.

And it generally manifests in this manner: Counting.

Counting how often Restoration concepts are used.  In the conversations I’ve had, many people have said to me “Your church (Community of Christ) is no longer a Restoration church” or “We are ceasing to be a Restoration church”, etc.

The same rationale for such thinking is presented over and over: “Your/our publications and your/our World Conference sermons seldom, if ever, quote from the Book of Mormon, early sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, or the Inspired Version of the Bible; or reference Joseph Smith Jr., the sacred grove, the restoration of priesthood authority, etc.”

This kind of thinking always makes me smirk, because I know with all my heart that we are not called to count such things.  The original twelve apostles did not have the Book of Mormon.  They did not have Joseph Smith Jr.  They did not have the various unique features of the Restoration.   Christ did not make such things the heart and soul of the church.  They are not the spiritual foundation of Christ’s church, nor are they the purpose for which it was created, in any era.

The church was, I suspect, established for many reasons – but not for *any* the above.  The church today is meant to be a restoration of the ancient church. It is, after all, not a new church, but a restoration – a new iteration, in modern times, of the ancient church.

However, a new iteration is not a new church, anymore than a reorganization of a church does not make it a new church; and we must always remember, we are, first and foremost, the church of Jesus Christ, not Joseph Smith.

We are called to be “the church”, not the Restoration.  Our primary concerns should be ensuring that we are in alignment with the mission of Jesus Christ, that we are driving the Great Commission; that we are helping to further the cause of Zion by (among other things) feeding the poor, tending the sick, helping to diminish tyranny, protecting the environment, encouraging animal conservation and promoting communities of joy, hope, love and peace as we proclaim Jesus Christ.

The people who tend to count how often Community of Christ makes use of Restoration concepts or Restoration resources also tend to believe in the concept of the one true church.  While this concept is no longer a focus item for Community of Christ, it is a doctrine that I personally believe in.

Yet, I find the combination of “church truists” and “counters” to be ironic because, I’m quite convinced that if the doctrine of a one true church really is of God (as I believe), then the church so recognized as the true church in the mind and will of God will be so viewed, by Him, for a plethora of reasons which will include the various causes I mentioned above (mission of Christ, feeding the poor, cause of Zion, etcetera).

If there is a true church, it will not be, in my opinion, regarded as the true church (by God) for how often it references the sacred grove.  Or priesthood authority.  Or the Book of Mormon.  Or…

It is also my conviction that any church that is obsessed with counting the usage of restoration teachings (in itself or others), or which is primarily focused on ensuring that it is the Restored Church, above all other considerations, will never be regarded by the Lord as His one true church.

In other words, once you become fixated or obsessed with how often others reference Restoration theology, and/or become prideful of how much of a Restoration faction your own denomination is, you can say goodbye to any claim you think you have of your church being the one true church.

I don’t wish to give the impression that I reject Restoration concepts, doctrines, or resources.  I embrace them, I celebrate them, I use them and I believe in them.

(for an overview of my own personal beliefs, you might want to read this sermon: http://ddonsermons.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/follow-my-commandments/ )

In fact, it is my deep conviction that our Restoration heritage is what makes us so awesome (and we are awesome).

Nonetheless, I tend to regard all of our Restoration characteristics as tools, to help us spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, to help people encounter God and Reflect Christ.  Our Restoration heritage is what keeps us relevant; and we need to recognize that our Restoration beliefs resonate with a larger number of seekers.

There is just so much tremendous value in our various Restoration concepts and resources.  The more we embrace them, the more relevant and redemptive I think we will be.

However, they are meant to help us drive the Great Commission, and the mission of Jesus Christ.  They are not meant to be our very purpose, the reason for why we exist.  Christ’s mission has never been to promote the Book of Mormon, or the Inspired Version, etc.  His mission has little do with such things, but as we have been reminded, his mission is our mission.

It is however not just our mission.  It is the mission of all Christians, including all the other factions of the Restoration.

So, let us all work together in furthering Christ’s mission, let us remember to “let contention cease” and let us stop counting!

Balanced Stewardship

“Stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my Son…”
-Doctrine and Covenants Section 147:5a (CofC)

This blog is based on a sermon I preached, which you can read here.

A few years ago my congregation decided to identify six ministries that we would focus on.  After an extended period of consideration,  the team that spearheaded this initiative decided that one of these six ministries had to be stewardship.

However, we recognized that the term stewardship has some baggage in our church, and is also limited in scope.  We therefore wanted to rejuvenate and expand the meaning of stewardship.

As a result, we decided to give this particular ministry, as we envisioned it, the term “balanced stewardship”.  The aim of this ministry was defined as follows:

“Focus the careful and responsible management of time, talent, and resources to support the long term plan of the congregation…”

We also attached two primary objectives to this ministry:

1) To be a congregation made up of people who are individually and collectively inspired to joyfully offer their gifts in response to God’s grace.
2) Embracing a whole-life stewardship that is not limited to monetary responses.

However, I felt that it would be a challenge for many of our members, even with the above statements, to get their heads around the concept of stewardship being an aspect of all expressions of their discipleship, not just generosity.

Therefore, in a sermon I preached, I described five *possible* forms of balanced stewardship, which are as follows:

One: Fiscal Stewardship (A Disciple’s Generous Response)

This is the traditional understanding of stewardship.  Financial contributions to the church…because as much as we felt that the concept of stewardship needed to be expanded, tithing and offerings, etc., are still critically important.

Fiscal stewardship is of vital importance to the mission of the church, both locally and globally, and it’s reflective of our generous response to the needs of others.  Additionally, generosity is an expression of charity, and charity is an expression of love.

Your loving and generous contributions to your congregation, to your mission center, and to World Church, and to various programs such as World Accord, touch the lives of people all around the world, truly having a beneficial impact on those whose ministerial needs outweigh our own.

Our current tithing program is termed “A Disciple’s Generous Response”.  This program teaches us that generosity is a spiritual discipline.  It also encourages us to respond faithfully, spend responsibly, save wisely, and give generously.

These are all wise words, and we need to embrace them.  Yet in a system that promotes balanced stewardship, fiscal stewardship is but one form of our call to be good stewards.  And its important to remember that fiscal stewardship is not about guilt.  No one is expected to give beyond their means, or to give when they can’t.

Two: Earth Stewardship (Environmental/Conservation issues)

This is perhaps a more recent expression of stewardship, at least, for many of us, but it is an ancient discipline among aboriginal communities. Yet now the rest of the world has finally caught on; and God is encouraging us to embrace our call to be custodians of the whole world.

One of my favourite scriptures is the following :

“The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.”
–Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b (CofC version).

This passage truly resonates with me, and I am eager to explore ways in which our church, and our congregation can help protect the world on which we live.  This planet is a gift from God, as are all things in creation.  We can’t take anything, even the world itself, for granted.

Three:  Zionic Stewardship (Peace & Justice)

This is the responsibility that we have, beyond our charitable gifts, to help improve the conditions of all people throughout the world.  To care for one another.

A very, very, very, long time ago, God asked a rather short and simple question: “where is your brother” and the reply that He received was this: “am I my brother’s keeper?”  The answer to that question is “yes!” you *are* your brother’s keeper!  You are a keeper of all children of God.

We are reminded of this calling, this aspect of our stewardship, by another verse from Section 163:

“God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.” -4a

So you see, God has charged us with the task of helping to improve the lot of others, building a better world, living our mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ, and promoting communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.  This is Zionic stewardship.

Four: Ministerial Stewardship (time, energy, resource management)

This is sort of a catchall.   This is the stewardship of our own blessings; or, to put it another way, our time, energy, gifts and talents, and how we use them, our willingness to use them, our willingness to risk; to move beyond our comfort zones.

This type of stewardship could also be understood as an expression of our discipleship; and it deals with our willingness to identify those things that we are passionate about, and finding opportunities to give expression to those things in a church context.

Five: Temple Stewardship (physical, emotional & spiritual wellbeing)

The name of this form of stewardship comes from First Corinthians, in which we read the following:

“…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?” -19 IV (adapted)

This verse reminds us that our bodies are gifts from God.  They are temples of the Lord.  They are not ours, but His.  As such, we would do well to take very good care of them.  Therefore, we must always be attentive to our personal health, in all it’s many forms.  Our health is multi-dimensional, and therefore, so must be our efforts to take care of our health, our temples of the Lord.

And this also includes our spiritual wellbeing.  We must be careful to ensure that we don’t experience burnout.  And if we do, then we need to recognize it, and appropriately cope with it.  This is also a key aspect of our temple stewardship.

***

A member of my congregation decided to use the five examples of balanced stewardship by creating a “spring cleaning challenge” for our membership, which was as follows:

IT’S TIME FOR SOME SPRING CLEANING!
spring

Free yourself up to connect with God! (via the following five goals)

1. Earth Stewardship
Set a goal to find a way to look after the earth. Achieve the goal!

2. Fiscal Stewardship
Set a goal to manage your money better. Achieve the goal!

3. Ministerial Stewardship
Set a goal to cultivate your blessings. Develop your use of your time, talents, energy, and gifts. Achieve the goal!

4. Temple Stewardship
Set a goal to improve your health and lifestyle. Achieve the goal!

5. Zionic Stewardship
Set a goal to find a way to improve the lives of others. Achieve the goal!

Breathe Clearly Again!

***

I hope, after prayerful consideration, that you will agree that balanced stewardship, however one might define it, is important.  There are many reasons.  For example, it could be neglectful, or even maladaptive, to focus on only one expression of stewardship.

Plus, we are encouraged to broaden our ministry, to become more diverse in our witness of Jesus Christ.  This promotes our own spiritual growth, not to mention the positive impact that may transpire in the lives of those to whom we minister, which may not occur if we are not willing to render new forms of ministry.

The church needs balanced stewardship.  From each of us.  That need has never been more urgent.  Our discipleship and stewardship must be flexible, and relevant.  We must be open to change, because the church has changed, and the church has changed because the world has changed, and that is perhaps the most important reason why balanced stewardship is so vitally important.

***

What does stewardship mean to you?  Is it appropriate to envision stewardship in a broader manner than previously understood?  Do the five examples above resonate with you?  How do you envision balanced stewardship?

A Sacred Purpose

This blog is part of my ZionBound series.  The full series can be read in post order here.

groveI have often felt that there is a great deal of confusion among some members of the Restoration movement regarding why the Restoration itself exists.  This is not to say that there isn’t a purpose, but I don’t think that the purpose is what many people believe it to be (this is perhaps especially true in other Restoration factions).  This extends to the church as well.  Both the Restoration, and the Church, have a purpose, a reason for existing.  The church also has, in my opinion, an aim.

What follows is my attempt to outline what I feel these things are.

Purpose of the Restoration

Why did Christ bring about the Restoration?  The traditional response would perhaps be something like “to restore the ancient church, to again bring forth power and authority from God”.  In recent years we have been less likely to describe the Restoration in that manner, and have found new ways to express what it means to be the Restoration.

Some people feel that we have changed the meaning of the Restoration; that we have deviated from what we used to teach.  I disagree.  In my opinion, the church has simply deepened and broadened our understanding of what it means to be the Restoration.

Today, the concept of the Restoration now includes a call to restore mankind to the world, to restore people to each other, and to God, and I see nothing wrong with such notions.

In this sense, the Restoration is understood not as a single event, but as an ongoing process – which makes sense, given that God’s purposes are eternal.  However, this broader, deeper understanding does not, in my view, negate the original understanding, which I am quite comfortable with, as I personally believe in the concept of the one true church (though I submit, we probably don’t really understand just what that means).

There is yet another element of the meaning of the Restoration.  Beyond the original concept of restoring authority, beyond the added dimension of restorative action, there is a third aspect.  One which perhaps binds the other two together.

A few years ago my father was teaching the adult Sunday school class at our congregation.  He asked the question “what is the purpose of the Restoration”?  He explained to the class that in his opinion the true purpose of the Restoration was to declare to the world that God is not dead, that Jesus Christ still speaks to His children even today.

This really resonated with me, and I think its very true.  Our church is one of the few that accepts the notion that there is yet more light and truth to be revealed; and even fewer celebrate it as we do.

At the time of this writing, the most recent revelation added to our Doctrine and Covenants is Section 164.  Furthermore, we have revelations, intended for the benefit of the global church, that exist outside of our Doctrine and Covenants.

This custom began in the presidency of Brother McMurray, who presented Letters of Counsel to the church regarding changes in the councils and quorums and orders of the church.  When asked if these documents, should still be regarded as revelations, it is my recollection that President McMurrray confirmed that they should be so regarded.

Although I have not been tracking them all, I presume that there have now been eight such documents (World Conferences 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010 & 2013).  In addition, between the 2010 and 2013 World Conferences, President Veazey released documents naming new appointments after some church leaders retired.  I believe there were two such documents, again presented with assurances of the Spirit’s involvement.

We also cannot forget the words that resulted from the “impress of the Spirit” that President Veazey received while preparing his 2009 address, “A Defining Moment”, and which appear near the end of that document.

Naturally, we also must remember the latest “Words of Counsel” presented in April 2013.

These various revelatory experiences that the church has been blessed with since 1998, along with the continued custom of adding new inspired documents to the Doctrine and Covenants, should be clear evidence to anyone that the church is embracing and celebrating Continuing Revelation more so now, than ever before.

This is, to be sure, “Great and Marvellous” – what a blessing it is to live during an era of the church when we are so willing and eager to seek out God’s counsel and guidance.

Of course, even as the prophetic role of the prophet has actually been magnified in recent years, with all of these non D&C revelations, the prophetic role of the general membership has also increased, with God’s call to the whole church to be a prophetic people.  We are all called to discern God’s will.

So, on the one hand we see that the whole membership has a role to play in the revelatory experience, and on the other hand, we see that the prophet also continues to have a very vital role to play in that same experience.

Clearly, we are a church with a prophet, and prophetic people.  Simultaneously.  That balance can only bless us.  Truly, we are a church that values, embraces, and celebrates divine revelation, and in a plurality of ways.

We are blessed with continuing, modern revelation.  We are blessed with an open canon of scripture.  We are blessed with the knowledge that God is indeed not dead, that Christ still lives, and that the Lord still makes his mind and will known to us even in this modern, mostly secular 21st century world.

But are we listening?

Purpose of the Church

Community of Christ has a mission statement, which says:

“We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of Joy, Hope, Love and Peace”

According to the bylaws of the church, the above mission statement is also our purpose statement.

Other resources help expand on this statement:

Our bylaws (Article II) include the following words:

“…The church envisions a time when the promise of God’s kingdom shall be fulfilled. We have a vision of that kingdom where the name of Jesus Christ is truly honored, where God’s will is done on earth, where the hungry are fed, poverty is alleviated, sinners are repentant, and sin is forgiven…

…We believe that love is the proper foundation of our relationship with others, that opportunity to grow in the likeness of Christ should be fostered, and that the resources of the world can be managed to respect and preserve their creation and purpose. We have a vision of a time when all evil is overcome and peace prevails…

…We will be an international community of prophetic vision, faithful to the risen Christ, empowered by hope, spending ourselves courageously in the pursuit of peace and justice.”

Our Basic Belief statement states:

“We offer a community of people where the gospel of Jesus Christ is the focus of worship, learning, caring, and mission” Source: Basic Beliefs (“We offer”)

And also includes:

“The Good News of Jesus Christ is at the center of the faith and beliefs of Community of Christ. We are a worldwide community and are committed to follow Jesus, bring forth the kingdom of God, and seek together the revealing, renewing presence of the Holy Spirit.”  Source: Basic Beliefs (“Preface”)

And further states:

“Being a Christian is more than holding a list of right ideas; it is about radical obedience to Jesus in every part of life…Jesus calls us to follow him and to invite others to experience the transforming power of his grace” Source: Basic Beliefs (“Discipleship”)

Our Enduring Principles offer these words:

“God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and continuing presence through the Holy Spirit, as proclaimed by scripture, is the foundation of our faith, identity, mission, message, and beliefs.” Source: Enduring Principles (“The Foundation”)

and:

“We are called to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.” Source: Enduring Principles (Blessings of Community)

Our Mission Initiatives includes this statement:

“We are poised to share the peace of Jesus Christ with those who are waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel.   We fulfill God’s ultimate vision as we Baptize/Confirm Many New Members, Open New Congregations, Launch the Church in New Nations” Source: Mission Initiatives (“Invite People to Christ”)

And the Doctrine and Covenants includes this passage:

“Heed the urgent call to become a global family united in the name of the Christ” Source: –161:6b

All of the above wonderful statements help give expression to what our purpose is.  However, in my opinion it all boils down to this statement of my own:

“to encourage appropriate worship of God according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Yet, that is perhaps too brief.  As a foundationalist, I’d be more comfortable with a little more definition:

“to encourage appropriate worship of God according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and God’s prophets, apostles, and other servants, as recorded in the scriptures of Community of Christ.”

When I came to regard this as my own view of what the purpose of the church is, I then asked myself, “so what is our aim?”

Well, in many ways, many of the statements from the church resources listed above, might be better understood as aim statements, than as purpose statements (and I’m sure there is some overlap).

However, again, I’ve crafted my own:

“to have a positive, transformative impact on the lives of all people.”

Yet this statement is a few years old now, and I’d probably want to tack on part of my congregation’s vision statement, rendering the aim of the church as something like this:

“to have a positive, transformative impact on the lives of all people, by empowering them to Encounter God and Reflect Christ.”

The full vision statement of my congregation is:

“Working with the Holy Spirit, empowering people to Encounter God and Reflect Christ.”

Printed copies of it include the church seal in the middle, and at the very bottom, part of the statement is repeated as a “sound bite”: Encounter God! ~ Reflect Christ!

I’ve come to grow very fond of our vision statement, especially the closing sound bite.  In fact, I’ve always hoped that one day it might move beyond my congregation and perhaps be adopted by the greater church community.  Who knows, maybe one day we will use it as a type of greeting, our own “live long and prosper”  🙂

One of the reasons I like the statement so much is because, in addition to perhaps being useful as part of an aim statement, it’s also a challenge.  It causes one to ponder, just how do we do that?  How do we empower people to encounter God?  How do we reflect Christ?

I’ve come to realize that some of the concepts I’ve talked about in other blogs help provide the means to encounter God.  If we are giving our congregations and visitors opportunities to be engaged in relevant, redemptive, and resonating activities, programs, ministries, etc., then it follows that at least some of these events should bring people into encounters with God.

With regard to reflecting Christ, that depends a great deal on those of us who are already disciples.  Reflecting Christ is the real challenge.  It means that we need to strive to be Christ-like, in how we interact with strangers, or our friends, our spouses, our co-workers, our family members, our congregations, our teammates, our competitors, our colleagues, or with people who have different theologies and/or political alignments.

In short, we must model the ideal Christian image, 24×7. Even in isolation. So how we talk to people, how we treat people, how we speak of people, *even* how we think about people, will impact our success in terms of reflecting Jesus Christ.  This may seem really daunting, but the goal is to strive.

The better at it that we become, the more wholesome and strong our relationships with people will be, which can only have a positive impact on our church communities, which should provide new pathways of invitation; and as we reflect Christ, so will it become easier for others to do so.  That in itself may help empower them to encounter God, and encourage them to want to drive ministries that are relevant, redemptive and resonating.  It’s all connected.

In conclusion, what I want you to take away from this exploration is that we need to keep our focus on the right things.  We need to focus on what matters most, on the true meaning of the church and of the Restoration, and not be mired in false reasons (some of which I’ll explore in a future blog).  We are *not* called to count how often we reference or quote a unique aspect of the Restoration.

If we can help people know that God is not dead, if we help empower them to encounter God, and reflect Christ, if we can provide ministry that is redemptive, that is relevant, which resonates, and if we can be invitational, nurture holistic relationships and build sacred communities, we will prove that yes, we are listening.

Encounter God! ~ Reflect Christ!

Polygamy and the Book of Jacob

polygmyOne of the things I have observed about members of the Utah LDS church is that they often defend the appropriateness of polygamy by citing a verse in the Book of Jacob.

Conversely, Community of Christ has used the same book to show that polygamy is always wrong. However, for the LDS, this same book suggests that polygamy can be appropriate – if commanded by God.

Which interpretation is correct? Let us follow the example of Nephi and ponder the scriptures.

The verse that the Mormons use to defend polygamy is as follows:

“For if I will, saith the Lord of hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people: otherwise, they shall hearken unto these things.” –Jacob 2:39 (LDS 2:30)

The Mormons interpret this verse as follows:

“If I wish to increase the population of a community or of the church, I will command them (to be polygamous)”

On the subject of polygamy, the Book of Jacob offers the following statements:

“…the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old, desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son” –Jacob 1:15 (LDS 1:15)

“Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives, and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord” –Jacob 2:33 (LDS 2:24)

“For they have not forgotten the commandments of the Lord, which were given unto our fathers, that they should have, save it were one wife: and concubines they should have none; and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.” –Jacob 2:55 (LDS 3:5)

The Book of Ether also offers a statement:

“And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines…” –Ether 4:48 (LDS 10:5)

From these scriptures, it would seem that the Lord looks very disfavorably upon polygamy. Some Mormons, when responding to these verses, focus on the word “many”, saying that its ok for men to have more than wife at the same time (if God commands it), as long as he does not have too many of them.

But of course, the third example makes it clear that a man should only have 1 wife. The only way the Mormons can get around this statement is to suggest that it is OK for a man to have more than one wife if God commands it.

And the only way that Mormons can defend the notion that God might command a man to have more than one wife when there are clear statements made about how wrong it is, is to quote Jacob 2:39.

However, the Mormon interpretation of that verse is not valid.

To properly understand what the verse in question means, we need to look more deeply into what Jacob said.

The first chapter and the start of the second chapter indicate that Jacob was reviewing various sins being committed by the Nephites.

When he prepares to talk about polygamy, he states:

30 And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly, because of you.
31 But the word of God burthens me because of your grosser crimes.
32 For behold, thus saith the Lord, This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures: for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. (LDS 2:22,23)

So, here we see polygamy being described as a crime, and more serious than the ones that Jacob had discussed previously.

He continues with the following:

33 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives, and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord,
34 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. (LDS 2:24,25)

I referenced verse 33 previously, and it teaches us that the conduct of David and Solomon was regarded by God to be abominable.

But what is really interesting here is verse 34. In this verse, we learn that this gross and abominable crime of polygamy was a major reason why God commanded Lehi and Nephi to lead their people out of Jerusalem, into the wilderness, and across the ocean in the first place.

In fact, verse 34 seems to suggest that it was the only reason. And maybe it was. The First Book of Nephi tells us that the people of Jerusalem were sinful, and God, through Lehi, beseeched them to repent. However, that did not happen, and God eventually removed Lehi and his family from the city, and through them, preserved a righteous remnant of that population in a new land.

But what was the cause of all this sinful nature? No doubt there were many other crimes being committed, but it seems that at the heart of it, based on what the Lord reveals to the Nephites through Jacob, is the sin of polygamy.

So verse 34 tells us that the people who became the Nephites were lead out of Jerusalem for two reasons:

1. To get away from the polygamous city.
2. To become a righteous branch of the people they left behind.

This all supports the notion that God is forever displeased by polygamy.

Remember, this whole discourse by Jacob is to point out that the Nephites were doing something wicked…being polygamous.

Yet, Jacob is of the first generation of Nephites. So, his story is found quite close to the very commencement of the Nephite saga. He was born in the wilderness, and sailed with his people across the ocean, and helped Nephi and Sam and those who were loyal to them to build a new home.

There were very few of them. Lehi and his wife had died. Laman and Lemuel and some of the children of Ishmael had driven Nephi and his followers away. Ishmael had died long before.

Those loyal to God consisted of Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph and Zoram, and their wives, and their children, and Nephi’s sisters – and “all those who would go with me” – which may have included some of the children of Ishmael.

A very small group of people to commence a civilization. If God was ever going to command polygamy, that would have made more sense than any other time I can think of off the top of my head.

Remember, he wanted to build a new civilization. He wanted to preserve a righteous branch of the House of Israel. He delivered them from the destruction of Jerusalem. He guided them in the wilderness. He ensured Nephi was not harmed by his older brothers. He guided them across the ocean, after telling them how to build a ship for that purpose. And in the new world, he eventually separated Nephi from his elder brethren, all for the purpose of ensuring that this extremely tiny band of people could sire a new civilization.

So, if there were ever to be a time when polygamy would seem to make logistical sense, it was then. Yet, He did not command it.

A skeptic might suggest “but perhaps there were no extra women to go around”. Maybe there was one man for each women, so polygamy then was not needed.

But of course, we know that is not the case, because the people began to flirt with polygamy on their own, for which God rebuked them. That is of course the point of what Jacob was rebuking them for.

The people wanted polygamy, yet, during a time when it might have made logistical sense, God did not command it, and in fact rebuked them for wanting it. It was described as a gross crime, and something abominable to God. And they were reminded that they were delivered out of Jerusalem in the first place to get away from polygamy!

In my opinion, all the thoughts expressed above should serve to sufficiently prove that God has not, and never will command His people to be polygamous.

But they don’t directly prove that the LDS interpretation of verse 39 is wrong. A little more commentary is needed for that purpose.

It becomes helpful to look at verses 35 to 38.

35 Wherefore, I, the Lord God, will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
36 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none: For I, the Lord God, delighteth in the chastity of women.
37 And whoredoms are an abomination before me: thus saith the Lord of hosts.
38 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. (LDS 2:26-29)

Note that in verse 38, God says that the people are to keep his commandments, or the land will be cursed. This is what happened in Jerusalem. God gave Moses the Law, His 613 commandments, which in time, the people abandoned. And look what happened.

Yet, as we saw in verse 34, God delivers a remnant of the House of Israel, taken out of Jerusalem to escape polygamy (and it’s ultimate fate).

So, when we read verse 39:

“For if I will, saith the Lord of hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people: otherwise, they shall hearken unto these things.”

The interpretation of this is not “If I want to increase your population, I will command you to be polygamous”

When we read all the verses around verse 39 and understand the context, then the correct interpretation becomes clear:

“If I desire to establish a righteous community, I will command you – i.e., I will give you commandments – the Law. And if I do not, you will succumb to temptation to do the things which I have described as wrong”

This is the real meaning of verse 39.

The word “command” does not mean “I will command you to be polygamous (to increase your numbers)”

It means “I will be in charge. I will give you directives to live by (the Law, the 613 commandments of the Torah), so that you have a chance to be a holy people, otherwise, you’ll flounder in sin”.

Understanding now what the correct interpretation of this verse is, we then know that there is no scriptural basis for suggesting that polygamy is normally wrong, but can be permissible if God commands it.