03749_000_003Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.
How often should I ask for a priesthood blessing? Every time I feel sick, or uncomfortable, or unsure?
President , of the First Quorum of the Seventy
The answer to this question is basically covered in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook wherein it is stated:
“On special occasions Melchizedek Priesthood leaders, bishops, fathers (for their families), and others holding the Melchizedek Priesthood may, on their own initiative or when called upon, give special blessings of comfort and counsel as circumstances suggest. Situations that may be cause for such blessings are:
“A time of stress or trial, of mental, emotional or physical difficulty, such as when there has been a death in the family, or when a person is preparing to be hospitalized for an operation.
“If there is illness, the blessing may be part of the ordinance of administration to the sick; otherwise, it may be a blessing of comfort.
“There are instances when individuals should work out their problems without a special priesthood blessing. No clearly defined rule can be made to designate what to do in every instance except to seek inspiration from the Lord” (see Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, p. 25).
I would also suggest that your home teacher, quorum leader, or bishop could give additional counsel in special instances.
How do we explain Revelation 22:18 that says not to add to the scriptures?
, Department of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University
Because we believe that the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are additional scriptures, your question is a very appropriate one. Before discussing it, though, let’s get verses 18 and 19 out in front of us.
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Let us first consider what John meant by “this book” and then consider what he meant by not adding to or taking from it. When John wrote the Book of Revelation in the latter part of the first century A.D., he was not writing the concluding pages of the New Testament, as there was no New Testament in existence at that time. He was an exile on the isle of Patmos and was writing a scroll addressed to seven branches of the Church on the western side of what we today call Turkey. His manuscript was entirely independent of the rest of the 27 separate manuscripts that later came to form the anthology that we know as the New Testament. Nor was his manuscript necessarily the last one written. It is the consensus of those who have written on the subject that several of these 27 scrolls were written after the Book of Revelation was written. Not until the fourth century A.D. did the emerging collection of sacred writings become the New Testament essentially as we know it today. In the light of these facts, we may see that when John spoke of “this book,” he wasn’t referring to the New Testament (which was not yet formed) but simply to his own scroll, the Book of Revelation itself.
What, then does John mean when he commands anyone who reads his work not to add words to it or to take words from it? He means that no one should tamper with the text of his scroll in any way. He wants no copyist, no potential deceiver, no well-intentioned but misguided believer, no one to make any changes in the way it reads. He wants it to remain precisely as he has inscribed it under the inspiration of the Lord. It is interesting that the author of Deuteronomy, the fourth book of the Old Testament, similarly warns his readers, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.” (Deut. 4:2; compare Deut. 12:32.) In both cases the writers are commanding future viewers of their sacred manuscripts not to alter anything that has been written. Fortunately, no one seems to be arguing, on the basis of the injunction in Deuteronomy, that there never should have been any more scripture, for then some people might conclude that the rest of the Bible must be rejected.
Not only is John not saying that there never would be additional scripture, but the inevitable conclusion that one must draw from the Book of Revelation, when taken as a whole, is that John recognized that there undoubtedly would be additional scripture in the last days. How so? What is scripture but divine revelation in a written form? A good portion of the Book of Revelation is a prophecy of heavenly messengers coming to earth at a time beyond John’s day. When such messengers come and a written record is made of the visit and their message, automatically new scripture is formed. In the 11th chapter of the Book of Revelation [Rev. 11] John predicts the mission of two prophets who will prophesy in Jerusalem at the time of the end. When they prophesy and their divinely revealed message from God is preserved in a written record, again new scripture will be formed. Rising above all other events in prophetic significance in the Book of Revelation is the predicted second coming of Jesus Christ. When Christ comes and men of God make a written record of his coming, once more new scripture will be formed.
Rather than the Book of Revelation teaching us that there was never to be more scripture given to the human family, the little volume, viewed from the beginning to the end, becomes splendid evidence that there would be and must be additional scripture in the last days.
How can I develop greater faith?
I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves that question at one time or another, especially when we read scriptures such as Hebrews 11:6 [Heb. 11:6], where it says that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
I can feel great empathy with the father of the afflicted child in Mark 9:24 when he cried out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” I think he was saying, “My heart knows that thou art besieged by doubts. Please help me withstand them.”
In my own life there was a time when I found myself wondering why I was not able to exercise more faith, especially since I felt I had a testimony that God lives and that he is perfect and is able to do all things. As I pondered and prayed about the matter, I came to the realization that while I believed in our Father in heaven and his love and power, I was unsure of my own worthiness to receive the blessings I desired. I was also unsure at times that what I wanted was the Lord’s will—or at least wasn’t contrary to his will.
As I went on to study the subject and to try to gain greater faith myself, I discovered some key principles that are important for anyone who desires greater faith. They by no means cover the entire subject, but they are an important beginning.
In his Lectures on Faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “An actual knowledge to any person, that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life,” (Lecture Sixth:2, italics added.)
That word confidence has helped me to better understand what faith is. It reminds me of those powerful verses in the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants. There the Lord enumerates some important principles upon which the priesthood must operate—long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, unfeigned love, kindness, charity, purity of thought, etc.—and promises “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.” (See D&C 121:41–45; italics added.)
I have found this to be true. Our ability to exercise faith seems to depend in great measure on our confidence in our own righteousness. I don’t think that we are expected to live a perfect life before we can have any faith, but certainly we must be constantly working toward perfection. Our keeping of the commandments and our participation in the Church should be more than just routine and perfunctory. There needs to be an earnest desire, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness. We need to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” (D&C 58:27; italics added.) We need to have communion with our Father in heaven, rather than just say prayers.
In conjunction with worthiness, as it relates to faith, Joseph Smith made particular mention of the principle of sacrifice. He said that the degree of faith necessary to “lay hold on eternal life” requires the sacrifice of all earthly things, not even withholding one’s life. “It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.” (Lecture Sixth:7.)
Now, the mention of sacrificing all earthly things and of laying down one’s life may conjure up images of giving all of our possessions to the Church or of suffering martyrdom for the sake of the truth. This may or may not be required of us at some time … although I believe the willingness must certainly be there. Yet we can sacrifice all earthly things by concentrating on laying up treasures in heaven. And we can give our lives by devoting them to service in the kingdom.
I think we learn to sacrifice in the same way that we gain mastery over other gospel principles—step by step. When we make sacrifices, even though they seem small when compared to the sacrifice of one’s life, the result is an increase in confidence before the Lord.
For example, payment of tithing helps us increase our faith. When we pay a full tithing and are generous in our fast offerings and financial commitments to the Church, doesn’t it help us to be confident when we go to the Lord for help with problems, financial and otherwise? I find that it does.
And when we sacrifice other things in order to obtain our year’s supply of food, as the prophets have counseled us to do, don’t we have less anxiety about the future? Don’t we feel that we will be able to call on the Lord to aid in ways beyond our abilities?
If one has a calling in the Church and he sacrifices his personal time to fulfill that calling, doesn’t he feel more confident in going to the Lord for help in meeting other obligations?
As we grow in righteousness and as we learn to sacrifice, our faith grows stronger. Elder Bruce R. McConkie states: “Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present, and the greater the measure of obedience to God’s laws, the greater will be the endowment of faith.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 264.)
Now, as we 90strive to live righteously and to develop greater faith, I think it is important to remember that there is one who does not want us to have faith. Satan often reminds us of our numerous small failings and weaknesses in order to discourage us and lessen our effectiveness. I remember once how, after a calling in the Church had come to me, I went through a terrible agony of doubt about my worthiness. Then, when I was set apart I received an assurance from the one giving the blessing that I was considered worthy. I had not expressed those doubts to anyone, so the assurance had come as a revelation, and I was comforted and encouraged. My confidence was restored.
Many have similar doubts from time to time. They may come to a priesthood bearer when he is asked to give a blessing to someone who is ill. There is an instant recall of angry words, unworthy thoughts, duties undone. Regardless of whether such recollections are prompted by Satan or by our own minds, the more righteously we are living, the less ammunition can be used against us. Then, too, if we have developed a personal relationship with our Father in heaven, freely confessing our sins and making use of the principle of repentance, we can be comfortable in asking the Lord to grant our desires in spite of our remaining faults.
One other pitfall I would like to mention in connection with faith is the tendency to become impatient. We read or hear faith-promoting stories about healings, calming of storms, etc., that are almost instantaneous. We wonder why it is not so in our case. Because the Lord doesn’t act immediately on our request, we begin to think he will not act at all. But we need to remember that the Lord had enjoined us to wait patiently upon him. (See D&C 98:2.) Patience is part of faith.
Righteous living, then, including making the sacrifices required of us, is necessary before we can obtain sufficient faith in the Lord. Combined with this we must be patient; and we must remember that the Lord will be merciful if we are truly striving to overcome sin in our lives, although we are not yet perfect.
Since faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel (A of F 1:4), and since we have been admonished to “seek … earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8), the gift of faith is one that every Latter-day Saint should actively seek. Surely it is a gift the Lord desires each of us to have.