What Has Changed?
This blog is part of my ZionBound series. The full series can be read in post order here.
If we are going to advocate the notion that God can bring about change, we should be able to present some examples from our sacred canon and perhaps also from our own history. Do such examples exist? Absolutely!
To begin with, let us consider the following verse from the Book of Alma:
“And Alma established a church in the land of Sidom, and consecrated priests and teachers in the land, to baptize unto the Lord whosoever were desirous to be baptized.”
Compare the above passage with Doctrine & Covenants Section 17:11e:
“but neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands”
So, we see that in the ancient church, according to the Book of Mormon, teachers could baptize. Yet, in the restored church, as indicated by the Doctrine and Covenants, they cannot. God changed what the office of teacher was authorized to do. This represents a change made by God to the priesthood.
Consider now an example of God changing a sacrament: From Alma 9:
43 And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying, O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart.
44 And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said, Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead, as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.
45 And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.
Pay particular note to the words Alma used in verse 44 when he baptized Helam, keeping in mind that the above passage clearly indicates that Alma was filled with the Holy Spirit. This strongly suggests that what Alma did, and said, was done by the prompting of God. Now compare to:
“And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
-Third Nephi 5:25
We should also give some consideration the office of prophet. In the modern church, the prophet is always a member of the priesthood, and is itself an office of priesthood, to which the successors of Joseph Smith Jr. are ordained. This reflects a further change. In the ancient scriptures, the role of prophet was not an office of priesthood. It was simply a divine calling that some people had, but it existed outside the priesthood (though no doubt some members of the priesthood also served God as prophets).
Another very important change pertains to slavery. In the Old Testament, slavery was tolerated by God:
44 Both thy bond-men, and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids.
45 Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession.
46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bond-men for ever; but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor. -Leviticus 25 (Inspired Version)
However, we read the following in Section 98:10g:
“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.”
This demonstrates God reversing a prior divine position. This would be, in my own opinion, an example of something that was not previously viewed by God as a sin, becoming so.
Regardless of that question, the point here is that God, for whatever reason, openly tolerated, and seemed to even command, or at least encouraged slavery -the treatment of some people being regarded as property by other people; only to then reverse that position in 1833 – several centuries after the Torah was recorded. During the interim, the world changed.
In 1993 Herald Publishing House printed a book called “Having Authority”, by Gregory A. Prince, which informs us on page 43 that in the early days of the Restoration, only elders could ordain. However, in 1831, this authority was extended to priests.
Likewise, this same book informs us on page 54 that bishops were originally part of the Melchisedec priesthood, but eventually became part of the Aaronic priesthood (this may be an unfamiliar concept for many readers, however, strictly speaking the office of bishop belongs to the Aaronic priesthood, and is properly filled by descendants of Aaron. However, since proving such descent is problematic, the lord has indicated that high priests can serve in the office of bishop).
In Leviticus 24:20 we see a reference to God’s Old Testament version of justice: “eye for eye”. The verse states:
“Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.”
According to verse 13, this was the word of God spoken to Moses. So, this custom was God’s will.
However, this policy was reversed in the Gospel of Matthew:
40 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
41 But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. -chapter 5
Questions to Ponder
1. What was your initial reaction to seeing examples in our scriptures and history that God has changed things?
2. Which change most surprised you?
3. How comfortable are you with knowing that God can change things?