Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Mormon Covenant With the Dead

In an article in the Meridian Magazine the story is told of how Thousands of Hands Brought Joseph Smith’s Descendants Together. It is a powerful story of an apparently Herculean effort to bring the descendants of Joseph Smith together to celebrate his 200th birthday in 2005. A story that testifies powerfully of the exalted place given the man of whom Mormons sing, “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah.” It must be cold for Jesus there in his shadow.

What is both striking and disturbing about this account however is the means by which these faithful Mormons believe it was achieved. The mail services of the world were used, phone calls no doubt were made, invites were sent out and no doubt prayers were uttered. Oh, and by the way, the dead were recruited to help.

Having received a charge from the late Mormon prophet Gordon B Hinckley “to create opportunities for the posterity of Joseph Smith to be receptive to the teachings of the gospel”, Michael Kennedy Jr,, third great-grandson of Joseph Smith, set about his task. His wife, writing the article, reports:

The first impression Michael felt guiding him towards accomplishing this charge was, “If you do not have very many members of your family on this side of the veil who are members of the Church, it is because you do not have very many members of your family on the other side of the veil who are members of the Church; for it is those whose temple work has been completed who can impact the lives of their living posterity so they become receptive to the teachings of the gospel.” [quotes in original, emphasis added]

She goes on to explain how they went about achieving their goal, contacting and persuading people to come to a gathering in Salt Lake City:

“Over 500…colorful invitations to Joseph’s 200th Birthday Celebration were made and laid inside the cover of a personally autographed book by Matthew Brown, “Joseph Smith: The Man, The Mission, The Message.” The book with the invitation was mailed to each descendant with faith that all the temple work we performed over the last two decades for the deceased families of the Prophet would enable them to impact the lives of their living posterity, and there would be a great desire to accept the invitation and come to this celebration. And they came, many testifying of impressions and feelings they could not explain but knowing they had to come.” [emphasis added]

She ends the article with these words:

“May the Lord bless all those who have had a part in this gathering including those who were with us in the years 1987-2000 as hundreds gathered in the temple with our families and acted as proxies to do the work for Joseph and Emma’s children. This temple work gave our ancestors on the other side of the veil access to their children on this side of the veil. This in turn perpetuated a desire to help and softened hearts, providing a way to bring about the charge Michael was given; “to create opportunities for the posterity of Joseph and Emma to be receptive to the teachings of the gospel. “ Our hearts are full of gratitude to all of our friends who have stood by us and continue to support our efforts to gather the Prophet’s family.” [Emphasis added]

You will no doubt remember from Sunday School, the story of Dives and Lazarus:

There was a certain rich man who was customarily clothed in purple and fine linen and making merry in luxury every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table But even the dogs came and licked his sores.

And it happened that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich one also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”

But Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, there is a great chasm fixed between you and us; so that they desiring to pass from here to you cannot, nor can they pass over to us from there.”

And he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”

Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them.”

And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if one should go to them from the dead, they would repent.”

And he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even though one rose from the dead.” (MKJV)

Wasn’t Judah chastised and punished for making a covenant with the dead (Isaiah 28:15,19) and didn’t God tell Judah that as a consequence Jerusalem would be to him like an altar hearth, that her prophets would be blind and that her voice would be “low out of the dust” as though from the realms of the dead (Isaiah 29 – No it is not a prophecy about the Book of Mormon but a judgement on disobedient Judah)

Isaiah wrote, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people enquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20)

The psalmist wrote, “I life my eyes up to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps.121:1,2) The Mormon, on the other hand, seems to look to the dead, appears prepared to make a covenant with the dead.

While the gospel of Christ is that death and sin have been conquered the message of Mormonism seems to be that the great gulf between the dead and the living, a gulf described by Jesus as unbridgeable, has been bridged and the dead once more have communion with the living. I really think Mormons need to go back and read Isaiah 29 again and grasp the dire consequences that fall to those whose covenant is with the dead and not with the LORD.

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