Kingdom of God

Theodore M. Burton


 

One of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament is the story of Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. In his dream the king saw a great image whose brightness was exceeding great and whose appearance was most terrible. Yet a stone rolling down from a mountain smashed the idol into a thousand pieces. This experience so disturbed the king that he sought an interpretation of his dream.

In his interpretation of this dream, Daniel the prophet said that later on God would set up a kingdom which would never be destroyed, and that kingdom would eventually consume all other kingdoms and would stand forever. The scripture then records his words:

“Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” (Dan. 2:45.)

Most religious writers and certainly all Christian authors correctly assure us that this kingdom which was to come is the kingdom of Jesus Christ. A serious question arises, however, as to when that kingdom was to be set up. Most Christians assume that this dream referred to the ecclesiastical kingdom which began with the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. They forget that Christianity as it was practiced through the centuries fostered kingdoms rather than replaced them. People also forget that Jesus Christ himself told of an apostasy to come. In speaking of the latter days, Jesus warned:

“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matt. 24:24.)

He foretold the death of his apostles, which we now know actually took place. Before the destruction of these apostles, Paul warned the saints of his day:

“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first. …” (2 Thes. 2:2–3.)

The literal fulfillment of the scriptural predictions of a universal apostasy is made so plain by a reasonable study of ecclesiastical history as to be unmistakable. Nevertheless, Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream must eventually go into fulfillment. The question to be answered is: When?

There is a related prophetic utterance from the prophet Isaiah that I would like to cite at this time:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:2–3.)

It has been revealed in these latter days that the kingdom of Jesus Christ has already been restored again to man:

“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” (D&C 65:2.)

When the early missionaries of this church went forth into Canada, they preached that restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They announced grand and glorious tidings of great joy as they explained how God had spoken again from heaven. That gospel stone was not cut out of the mountain by the hand of any man. The stone was rolled forth by God himself when he revealed himself to Joseph Smith and, pointing to his Son, proclaimed: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:17.)

It was Jesus Christ, the Son, who restored to man through the person of Joseph Smith a divine message of restored truth and hope. The gospel of Jesus Christ came from the “mountain.” The “mountain” is just another way of speaking of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This restored kingdom of Jesus Christ was revealed in a day when other kingdoms on the earth were rapidly being eliminated. There are only a few kingdoms left, and these are principally constitutional monarchies. The day will soon come when the only kingdom to survive will be that ecclesiastical kingdom of Jesus Christ which is to replace all other kingdoms on the face of the earth.

When the missionaries proclaimed that message of truth and hope in eastern Canada, my great grandfather, Samuel Burton, Jr., heard it.

Because it had a familiar sound, he accepted it with his family as gospel truth. After becoming members of the Church, he and his family left to join the rest of the Church at Nauvoo. Before he arrived there, however, Joseph and Hyrum were martyred, so the family then turned west to join the Church on the prairies at Winter Quarters. His beloved wife, Hannah Shipley Burton, suffered from the hardships of the journey and died on the plains on the banks of the Missouri River. This grief-stricken man undoubtedly complained loudly as has many another man who has suffered hardships and trials while being proved by the Lord. If we understood completely the designs of the Lord, we would be more patient in our suffering and would not complain as much as we so often do when hardships come and we are asked to sacrifice.

Joseph Smith, however, understood the plans of God better than did his contemporaries. Before his death he prophesied that the Saints would be driven into the Rocky Mountains and there become a great and a mighty people. It seems incredible, in the face of a prophecy such as this, that the Saints and some of their leaders would have tried to move elsewhere. I was recently on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada and thought it one of the loveliest places on earth. I can well understand why people love that beautiful area with its mild climate. In the early days of the Church when the Saints were seeking a new home, they petitioned the British government to let them settle on Vancouver Island. Many were bitterly disappointed when their request was denied.

Later on other members even left the Church when Brigham Young refused their request to lead the migrating Saints on to settle in beautiful, prosperous California. Why should they stop to settle on a desert waste-land in the top of the Rocky Mountains? Because only there could the prophecy of Isaiah be literally fulfilled.

Remember that the mountain or kingdom of the Lord had to be established in the top of the mountains. It had to be in mountains exalted above the hills. There the Saints were to gather instructions and strength, and the gospel, or stone, of Jesus Christ was to roll forth from there to fill the whole earth. This prophecy has been and is even now being fulfilled as thousands of missionaries go forth from this gathering place to proclaim the divine message that God lives and has spoken again from the heavens. Where else can you find such literal fulfillment of these two divine prophecies?

That gospel of Jesus Christ is found contained in the Bible, which had its beginnings at Jerusalem; so the word of the Lord as found in the Bible did come from that very city. The Book of Mormon, which is the second divine witness of Jesus Christ, also had its beginnings at Jerusalem. Surely the word of the Lord has been sent forth from Jerusalem. On the other hand, the law of the Lord given in the Doctrine and Covenants, and which is also revealed through living prophets for the governing of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, comes from Zion, which is on this, the American continent.

But there is one more part of this prophecy to be considered, and that concerns the house of the God of Jacob. The house of Jacob are the children of Israel, but what is the house of the God of Jacob? Why, the house of the God of Jacob consists of temples erected in the mountains, on the tops of the everlasting hills. There the people of the world have gathered, and there in the house of the God of Jacob they have been taught the ways of God. Now that the people have received this power and strength given in these temples, they have moved forth from the mountain stronghold to bring the message of the gospel to all the earth. As strength has been built up elsewhere, temples have been built in other places, and eventually they shall be found in every corner of the earth. In these temples, additional knowledge of God and his ways is revealed. In the house of the God of Jacob, the children of God receive needed spiritual strength to live better than they otherwise would have done.

As we understand this concept of going to the house of the God of Jacob to receive strength, we understand how important it is to attend the temple frequently. If members holding the priesthood reject the opportunity to go to the temple regularly, they reject the very God who made them and with whom they have covenanted to always remember him and to walk in his ways. The covenants we make in the temple of God are so important that we violate them at the peril of our eternal salvation. Therefore, as often as possible, the members of the Church who hold the priesthood should go to the temple as individuals, with priesthood quorums, and also with their wives, to have their spirits strengthened and their souls revived. Only by regular attendance at the temple can we remember the importance of the commitments we have made to serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.

I urge every Latter-day Saint to remember these two great prophecies. They have great significance to every one of us. Qualify yourselves as rapidly as you can by righteous living to go to the temple often and there worship and serve the true and living God. I plead with you for your own well being and happiness to practice the promises and covenants you make with the Lord in those temples. As the Lord has warned us: “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” (D&C 78:7.) If we desire to receive celestial blessings, we must keep the celestial law.

To those not yet members of the Church, I ask you to examine your own hearts. You will recognize that what I have said about these two great prophecies does have a familiar ring! These prophecies are going into complete fulfillment even now. Before your very eyes the plans of the Lord are being revealed to you, if you will only open your eyes and observe what is happening about you. Waste no more time in speculation and questioning, but investigate these principles more closely and you will know for yourselves the truth of what I have spoken. Come join with us in serving the only true and living God, and qualify yourselves to receive those great blessings which God has reserved for you in these last days. You too can become a savior on Mount Zion for your family and friends, as that stone cut out of the mountain without hands rolls forth to fill the whole earth. That the kingdom of God is now is process of expanding under the leadership of true prophets of God, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.