2 John: To a Branch of the Church
3 John: To Gaius, a Christian Convert
(2 and 3 John), ca. A.D. 96
Saints Are Commanded to Teach the Law of Love
Do Not Aid the Enemies of Christ
Gaius Praised for His Labors
Beware of the Example of Diotrephes
The Letter of Jude, a Brother of the Lord, to Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, ca. A.D. 70–90 (Jude)
“Contend for the Faith”
Certain Angels Kept Not their First Estate
The Disputation of Michael the Archangel
Enoch Prophesied of Christ’s Second Coming
“Keep Yourselves in the Love of God”
Second and Third John
(53-1) Place and Date of Writing
All the evidence, and it is very scanty, suggests a date and place identical to that for First John somewhere near the turn of the first century at an unknown place in the Roman Empire. Indications in the letters suggest that Gnosticism is still the apostle’s dominant concern. While we cannot be certain as to the exact order in which the three letters of John were written, there is no solid evidence for accepting them in any other sequence than that in which they presently appear in the New Testament.
(53-2) Background Information
The background of Second and Third John is much like that for John’s first letter. Second and Third John, however, are more intimate, for they are addressed to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1) and to “the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” (3 John 1.) Who is this elect lady? Is she a person of John’s close acquaintance, such as a wife or sister? Are the children his own flesh and blood offspring? Or are these designations to be interpreted spiritually? Is the “elect lady” an individual branch of the church whose members are her “children”? Is she an individual in whose home (2 John 10) the faithful saints, her “children,” gather for weekly worship? Is Gaius a presiding elder of a local branch? Who are Diotrephes and Demetrius?
Unfortunately these questions cannot be answered conclusively from the evidence that is available. What is apparent, however, is that Second and Third John seem to have been written to warn the faithful saints against the Gnostic philosophy of the day, to beware of those “many deceivers … who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” (2 John 7.) John urges those confronted by this and other heresies to “follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” (3 John 11.)
(53-3) Significant Contributions
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who believes that these two epistles may have been personal letters written to members of John’s own immediate family, summarizes the contributions of the two writings as follows:
“Why these two brief, personal epistles?
“Their doctrinal content and historical recitations are, of course, minimal. But they do add a unique contribution to the revealed word which well pays for their preservation. …
“Brief, less significant than some portions of Holy Writ, these two lesser epistles of the Beloved John are yet of eternal worth, and the saints rejoice in the added perspective they give to the Bible as a whole.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:409.)
(53-4) 2 John 1. Was John an Elder in the Priesthood?
The word elder is a title applied to all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, whether they be ordained to the specific office of elder or not (D&C 20:38). The priesthood is greater than any of its ordained offices. Peter, an apostle and president of the high priesthood, referred to himself as an elder (1 Peter 1:5). John and Peter were elders in the same sense that any holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, regardless of his ordained position, is an elder.
(53-5) 2 John 1. What or Who Is an “Elect Lady”?
If we assume that the “elect lady” to whom John wrote was an actual person rather than a figurative designation for a branch of the church, as some maintain, what does the term mean? Elder McConkie has written:
“An elect lady is a female member of the Church who has already received, or who through obedience is qualified to receive, the fulness of gospel blessings. This includes temple endowments, celestial marriage, and the fulness of the sealing power. She is one who has been elected or chosen by faithfulness as a daughter of God in this life, an heir of God, a member of his household. Her position is comparable to that of the elders who magnify their callings in the priesthood and thereby receive all that the Father hath. (D. & C. 84:38.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 217.)
(53-6) 2 John 7. “For Many Deceivers Are Entered into the World”
From the beginning of this earth’s history, Satan and his emissaries have engaged in works of deception. For this reason, prophets of God have constantly warned the followers of Christ to beware of those who seek to beguile the unwary away from the truths revealed by God.
John’s day, as formerly shown, was no exception, for there were “many deceivers” in his day. John specifically warned of those “who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” These were the Docetists, Gnostic heretics who insisted that Christ was a phantom and ministered in appearance only. Matter is evil, and Christ could not have been a material being, for that would make him evil by association. Christ did not suffer for men’s sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross; he only seemed to suffer. (Dokein in the Greek means “to seem or appear,” hence Docetism.)
Such a teaching, if accepted, would have undermined the entire structure of the gospel of Christ. If Jesus had not suffered for our sins through the shedding of his blood, our sins would have remained unremitted. If Jesus had not conquered death by resurrecting his physical body, we and all before us would have remained dead forever and ever. All of our expectations for eternal life would have been shattered. There would have been no “good news,” or gospel of Jesus Christ, to place confidence in. Small wonder that John warned his readers to beware of the “many deceivers” abroad in the world who “confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” Latter-day Saints know he has, and that knowledge opens the doors to a more purposeful life.
(53-7) 2 John 10, 11. What Is So Serious about Bidding a Bearer of False Doctrine “Godspeed”?
“Godspeed” was a common form of greeting and of farewell in the 1600s when the King James Version was produced. It was, at that time, a good translation of the Greek. John was actually telling his readers to refrain from wishing prosperity and success to those whose lives and teachings were not in harmony with gospel truth. John is not suggesting that common courtesy cannot be extended to those who teach contrary doctrines. But in his time, the phrase he used also meant to welcome one into the home, to accept him as a guest. It was this kind of hospitality that enabled the itinerant preachers to exist and carry on their work. Thus, extending greeting was akin to supporting the work of these teachers. John is saying that saints should support only those who come teaching the gospel doctrine that Christ actually came in the flesh, suffered for mankind, brought about the Resurrection, and will judge each of us in the final day.
(53-8) 3 John 5–8. For What Is Gaius Commended by John in These Verses?
Even as John urged his readers not to provide lodging for teachers of false doctrine, so he commends Gaius for his kindness to the true ministers of God’s word. It was a custom in the early church that members of the branch would take Christian missionaries into their homes and provide for their needs. Such an act, as formerly noted, implied acceptance of the missionaries and their message. Even if the inns of that day had not had the evil reputation that they did, it is unlikely that very many of the brethren would have been wealthy enough to stay in them. Gaius is praised for his unselfish devotion to the cause of Christ in providing accommodations for God’s traveling servants.
Jude’s announced purpose in his letter was to urge his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Vs. 3.) The problem is one of apostasy, for he tells us “there are certain men” crept into the church unnoticed, “ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Vs. 4.)
Although the question of authorship has been much debated, no solid evidence has been produced to show that anyone other than Jude, brother of Jesus and James, wrote the letter.
Peter was president of the church of Jesus Christ in his day. We have no indication that Jude held any office of importance in the early church, but the epistle seems to suggest that he eventually attained to a position wherein a letter from him would carry some weight.
(53-11) Background Information
Next to Second and Third John, Jude is the shortest letter in the New Testament. Like the other general epistles, little is known concerning the group or groups to which the epistle was directed. Jude merely addresses his writing “to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” (Vs. 1.)
Jude’s words are sharp and incisive against the particular form of apostasy with which he was concerned. In graphic style, he cites three scriptural precedents to show how God has dealt in times past with disbelievers: the destruction of those who came out of Egypt and were not permitted to enter the Promised Land, the angels “who kept not their first estate,” and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. These Jude likens to apostates of his own day, and he predicts that the same fateful calamity which befell those in other eras will come to modern apostates as well. They err, he contends, in the same way that Cain, Balaam, and Korah of old erred—they trust in themselves rather than God. The only solution for those who would avoid such calamities is to call to mind the source of their blessings and to continue in prayer and good works. (See vss. 20, 21.) Having preserved themselves from apostasy, faithful members should be active in helping to avoid a similar fate (vss. 22, 23).
(53-12) Significant Contributions
“In the whole Bible, it is Jude only who preserves for us the concept that pre-existence was our first estate and that certain angels failed to pass its tests.
“It is to him that we turn for our meager knowledge of the disputation between Michael and Lucifer about the body of Moses.
“He alone records Enoch’s glorious prophecy about the Second Coming of the Son of Man.
“And he is the only inspired writer to express the counsel that the saints should hate even the garments spotted with the flesh.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:415.)
(53-13) Jude 4. What of Jude’s Description of False Teachers in His Day?
Jude describes the false teachers in the church as having “crept in unawares.” The Greek here is very vivid, being derived from a compound word which means “to slip in through a side door.” Rarely do apostate members openly challenge the principles of the gospel. Rather, they employ subtle, deceitful, and secret methods to lure the unwary away from the truth. Jude uses the image of someone slipping surreptitiously through the side door to mingle quietly with the congregation until there is an opportunity to cloak false teachings beneath his membership in the church.
The second term Jude uses, translated as lasciviousness by the King James translators, is also a very powerful one in Greek. It does not imply simply a condition of mental or spiritual immorality but highly visible and improper sexual behavior—unbridled lust and passion, as it were. Jude is probably referring to a group of members who are attempting to clothe their adultery with religious sanction.
(53-14) Jude 6. “The Angels Which Kept Not Their First Estate”
Both Abraham and Jude speak of the premortal world as our “first estate” (Abraham 3:26). Those spirits who were faithful in that initial stage of eternal progression qualified for the privilege of coming into mortality, our second estate, while those who rebelled against God and followed Lucifer are they of whom Jude speaks, “angels which kept not their first estate.’’ The Prophet Joseph Smith explains their condition:
“The spirits in the eternal world are like the spirits in this world. When those have come into this world and received tabernacles, then died and again have risen and received glorified bodies, they will have an ascendancy over the spirits who have received no bodies, or kept not their first estate, like the devil. The punishment of the devil was that he should not have a habitation like men.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 305–6.)
(53-15) Jude 6. What Are the “Everlasting Chains under Darkness” of Which Jude Speaks?
Outer darkness is the habitation of those “angels which kept not their first estate” but rebelled against God and joined forces with Lucifer. Here they will be joined by sons of perdition: those who, in this life, having known the ways of righteousness unto perfection, consciously chose a course that leads to hell (D&C 76:32, 33, 44). Since there is no progression, no spiritual growth, no advancement in light and truth in this state, those who inherit this condition are grasped with “everlasting chains” of darkness from which there is no return. Hell will end for all others.
(53-16) Jude 7. What Do We Know about the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Sodom and Gomorrah were twin cities that existed somewhere near the Dead Sea, probably at its southern end. They were destroyed because of their great wickedness, principally homosexuality, from which we derive the term sodomy. Both cities and their inhabitants were destroyed by fire from heaven (Genesis 19:24, 25). Their fate, as well as the practices known to have existed there, suggest that perhaps Jude’s reference to “lasciviousness” by “certain men crept in unawares” is intended to connote the practice of homosexuality. This evil practice has been condemned by the prophets of God in all ages. (See Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, chapter 6.)
(53-17) Jude 9. Who Is “Michael the Archangel”?
Michael the archangel is the great patriarch Adam (D&C 107:54).
(53-18) Jude 9. What Do We Know Concerning the Dispute Which Michael the Archangel Had with the Devil about the Body of Moses?
“Commentators assume, and it surely must have been so, that Jude had before him and was quoting from a then current apocryphal book, ‘The Assumption of Moses,’ which has been preserved to us in fragmentary form only. This non-canonical work presents the doctrine that Moses was translated and taken up into heaven without tasting death. It appears to deal ‘with certain revelations made by Moses,’ and ‘with his disappearance in a cloud, so that his death was hid from human sight … Michael was commissioned to bury Moses. Satan opposed the burial on the ground (a) that he was the lord of matter and that accordingly the body should be rightfully handed over to him; (b) that Moses was a murderer, having slain the Egyptian. Michael having rebutted Satan’s accusations proceeded to charge Satan with having instigated the serpent to tempt Eve. Finally, all opposition having been overcome, the assumption took place in the presence of Joshua and Caleb.’” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:421.)
It should be noted that, as Elder McConkie points out, “The Assumption of Moses” is an apocryphal book. Apocryphal means of dubious authenticity or validity. In other words, such books were not included in the Bible because they were not felt to be correct in every particular, even though they may have contained some things of value. (See, for example, what the Lord said about other apocryphal works in D&C 91.)
(53-19) Jude 11. “The Way of Cain … the Error of Balaam … and … the Gainsaying of Core”
Each of these men made a grievous mistake in the eyes of the Lord. Cain murdered his brother Abel in order to gain his brother’s flocks (Moses 5:32, 33); Balaam used his God-given gift of prophecy to enhance himself with riches and the honors of men (Numbers 22:5; 25); and Core (or Korah, as it is spelled in the Old Testament) rebelled against Moses, the Lord’s prophet, because of his exclusion from priesthood office (Numbers 16:1–3, 31–35). In each instance these men were cursed of the Lord for their evil: Cain was made a “fugitive and a vagabond … in the earth” (Moses 5:37); Balaam was slain by the sword (Numbers 31:8); and Korah and those who sided with him were swallowed up alive in the earth (Numbers 16:31–35). Jude wishes it understood that the evil men of his day, having “gone in the way” of Cain, Balaam, and Core, shall also meet a similar fate.
(53-20) Jude 14. What Do We Know Concerning Enoch’s Prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ?
See Moses 7:62–66.
(53-21) Jude 20. What Does It Mean to Pray “in the Holy Ghost”?
(53-22) Jude 23. “Pulling Them Out of the Fire”
“In the day of judgment, every corruptible thing will be consumed (D. & C. 101:24), and the wicked shall be burned with unquenchable fire. (Mal. 4:1.) If the erring saints are to be saved, they must be pulled, as it were, from the coming fire, even as God said of Israel: ‘Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning.’ (Amos 4:11.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:427–28.)
(53-23) Jude 23. “The Garment Spotted by the Flesh”
“To stay the spread of disease in ancient Israel, clothing spotted by contagious diseases was destroyed by burning. (Lev. 13:47–49; 15:4–17.) And so with sin in the Church, the saints are to avoid the remotest contact with it; the very garments, as it were, of the sinners are to be burned with fire, meaning that anything which has had contact with the pollutions of the wicked must be shunned. And so also with those yet in the world who are invited to join the kingdom. To them the call is: Repent, ‘Save yourselves from this untoward generation, and come forth out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted with the flesh.’ (D. & C. 36:6.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:428.)
Points to Ponder
One of the Greatest Challenges for Latter-day Saints Is to Be Aware of False Ideas and Unrighteous Behavior
From time to time internal dissension has undermined the strength of the Savior’s church. Men like Diotrephes have arisen—church members who have openly repudiated their presiding brethren (3 John 1–10). In previous times they resorted to primitive and violent means. Today, in our own more settled time, the lack of unity and concord is still evident in the Church:
“The Church is little, if at all, injured by persecution and calumnies from ignorant, misinformed, or malicious enemies. A greater hindrance to its progress comes from faultfinders, shirkers, commandment-breakers, and apostate cliques within its own ecclesiastical and quorum groups.” (David O. McKay in CR, Oct. 1967, p. 9.)
The letters of John and Jude list the evil doctrines and practices which then, as now, caused dissension within the church. Can any of these—or their modern counterparts—be found in your life?
Study carefully the following comparisons. Ponder the significance of the modern application to your life.
The Denial of God the Father and of the Mission of His Son
|2 John 7||They “confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.”|
|Jude 4||They deny “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”|
“There is creeping into our midst, and I warn you brethren about it, and I urge you to meet it, a great host of sectarian doctrines that have no place amongst us. The gospel in its simplicity, is to be found in the revelations, the teachings of the Prophet and the early leaders of the Church. We shall make no mistake if we follow them. We shall make mistakes … if we try to harmonize our simple beliefs with the philosophy and the speculations of sectarian doctrines. When you can hear in our Sunday Schools in some of our most prominent wards, that we do not need to worry much about or think much about the first vision, we do not need to think very much about the atoning sacrifice of Christ—that is a mystery; … we would better be careful.
“We must not ‘liberalize,’ and I put that term in quotes, our teachings; we must accept them as God gave them to us and there must be amongst us unity in faith. …” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in CR, Oct. 1944, pp. 117–18.)
Do you know of the reality of the Father and Son and accept Christ’s redeeming sacrifice?
Do you have a personal assurance that Jesus has returned in these latter days to establish and lead his church?
The Aspiration for Leadership, Honor, and Gain
|3 John 9||They “loveth to have … preeminence.”|
|Jude 11||They “have gone in the way of Cain, and ran after the error of Balaam for reward.”|
|Jude 16||They flatter “men’s persons … because of advantage.”|
“It would be gratifying to my mind to see the Saints in Kirtland flourish, but think the time is not yet come; and I assure you it never will until a different order of things be established and a different spirit manifested. …
“It is in consequence of aspiring men that Kirtland has been forsaken. How frequently has your humble servant been envied in his office by such characters, who endeavored to raise themselves to power at his expense, and seeing it impossible to do so, resorted to foul slander and abuse, and other means to effect his overthrow. Such characters have ever been the first to cry out against the Presidency, and publish their faults and foibles to the four winds of heaven.” (Smith, HC, 4:166.)
When friction arises between you and a church member, is a prideful desire for “preeminence” a factor? Are you more quick to see that trait in others than in yourself?
Do you regard Church service as an opportunity to serve others, or do you view it as a means of advancing yourself?
Do you resent callings in the Church that seem unimportant and wish you could serve in presiding positions?
Are the compliments you pay to others genuine? Or do you employ them to make people think well of you?
Disobedience to Priesthood Authority
|3 John 10||They reject the brethren, “prating against [them] with malicious words.”|
|Jude 19||They “separate themselves” from their brethren.|
“Brigham Young was a great defender of the Prophet Joseph Smith. There were Judases in the ranks in that day, just as there were in the Savior’s day, and just as we have today, some who are members of the Church who are undercutting us, who are betraying their trusts. We are shocked when we see the places from which some of these things come.
“Brigham Young was invited by some of these men who were trying to depose the Prophet Joseph from his position as President of the Church; but they made a mistake by inviting President Brigham Young into their circle. And after he had listened to what their motives were, he said something to this effect: ‘I want to say something to you men. You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.’ …
“Remember that, brethren. You cannot destroy the appointments of the prophets of God. …” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1972, p. 129.)
“I want to bear you my testimony that the experiences I have had has taught me that those who criticize the leaders of this Church are showing signs of a spiritual sickness which, unless curbed, will bring about eventually spiritual death. I want to bear my testimony as well that those who in public seek by their criticism, to belittle our leaders or bring them into disrepute, will bring upon themselves more hurt than upon those whom they seek thus to malign. …” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1947, p. 67.)
Do you “invite” the brethren into your life by studying their conference addresses?
Do you give as much credence to the statements of the living prophet as to those of the past?
In order to justify a personal belief, do you attempt to pit the statements of one general authority against another?
|Jude 4||They turn “the grace of our God into lasciviousness.”|
|Jude 7||They give “themselves over to fornication” and go “after strange flesh.”|
|Jude 8||They are “filthy dreamers” who “defile the flesh.”|
|Jude 10||They are “as brute beasts” and “corrupt themselves.”|
|Jude 16||They walk “after their own lusts.”|
“… In the area of one of Satan’s most destructive evils, we strongly warn all our people from childhood to old age to beware of the chains of bondage, suffering, and remorse which come from improper use of the body.
“The human body is the sacred home of the spirit child of God, and unwarranted tampering with or defilement of this sacred tabernacle can bring only remorse and regret. We urge: stay clean, uncontaminated, undefiled. …
“We urge, with Peter, ‘… Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.’ (1 Pet. 2:11.) No indecent exposure or pornography or other aberrations to defile the mind and spirit. No fondling of bodies, one’s own or that of others, and no sex between persons except in proper marriage relationships. This is positively prohibited by our Creator in all places, at all times, and we reaffirm it. Even in marriage there can be some excesses and distortions. No amount of rationalization to the contrary can satisfy a disappointed Father in heaven. …” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Apr. 1974, pp. 8–9.)
Consider in your life the test given to John Wesley by his loving mother: “Would you judge of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure? Take this rule: Now note, whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.” (Quoted by Ezra Taft Benson in CR, Oct. 1964, p. 59.)
Do you understand that sexual transgression—whether masturbation, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, or the use of pornographic materials—can lessen spiritual strength and lead to apostasy?
Disobedience to Civil Authority
|Jude 8||They “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.”|
“Now there is another danger that confronts us. There seem to be those among us who are as wolves among the flock, trying to lead some who are weak and unwary among Church members, according to reports that have reached us, who are taking the law into their own hands by refusing to pay their income tax because they have some political disagreement with constituted authorities.
“Others have tried to marshal civilians, without police authority, and to arm themselves to battle against possible dangers, little realizing that in so doing they themselves become the ones who, by obstructing the constituted authority, would become subject to arrest and imprisonment.
“We have even heard of someone claiming Church membership in protest against pornographic pictures being displayed in theaters, having planted bombs, and therefore becoming subject to punishment by the law and subsequently standing judgment before the disciplinary bodies of the church.” (Lee in CR, Oct. 1972, p. 127.)
Do you obey even those laws which you find to be inconvenient or consider to be unreasonable? What proper recourse do you have to unjust legislation?
Are you as charitable to civil authorities as you are to close associates?
Do you show respect for the rules, manners, and traditions which make orderly and civilized society possible?
|Jude 16||They are “murmurers” and “complainers.”|
“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 156–57.)
It has been asserted that the measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere. During the past week, what portion of your thoughts have been devoted to finding good everywhere?
Note the things which have most easily disturbed you during the past several days and apply this axion: The faults which we find disturbing in others are often those which we possess in abundance. Why is this so?
You Can Appropriately and Earnestly Contend for the Faith
(53-24) We Can Avoid Individual Apostasy by Maintaining an Unshakable Testimony of Jesus Christ
The characteristics of apostasy clearly have changed but little in 2,000 years. Today, as in the early church, those who have failed to control ambition, appetite, and speech have become subject to the tempter’s snare. Characteristically, they have neglected to build and nourish an unshakable testimony in Christ and his church. Consequently, their works have become like unto clouds without water (Jude 12). They have turned away from God’s learning and instead “read by the lamp of their own conceit.” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 373.)
Jude advised the saints of his day to “earnestly contend for the faith.” (Jude 3.) How can this counsel be applied to you and your testimony of the restored gospel? Return to the Points to Ponder section under the heading “One of the greatest challenges for Latter-Day Saints is to be aware of false ideas and unrighteous behavior”; then choose one specific teaching that you could begin to apply more conscientiously to your life. For example, if you find that you are not inviting the Brethren into your life, study some of the messages of the General Authorities in the latest conference issue of the Ensign. If you find that frictions arise easily between you and other people (roommates, family, church associates), make a sincere effort to subdue your pride and seek to understand and look for the good in others. As you actively strive to apply a principle of the gospel to your life, you will find yourself “contending for the faith.”