The Anointing of Jesus

The New Testament gives several accounts of Jesus being anointed in the days prior to His death and Resurrection. John places an anointing six days before the Passover (see John 12:2–8) while Matthew and Mark place the event two days before (see Matthew 26:6–13 and Mark 14:3–9). There are similarities in the accounts but also distinct differences.

I have always thought they were two accounts of the same event, but this video opened my eyes. I am now reconsidering my assumptions. Always a healthy thing.

Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

I love the Easter season more than any time of the year. The Easter story, or rather, the story of the events leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, are very powerful to me and mean so much.

I recently watched this video from the Messages of Christ channel on YouTube. I think it does an excellent job of explaining the significance of Jesus’s prophetic entry into Jerusalem on what we traditionally call Palm Sunday. I hope you enjoy it.

Second Coming: Comparison of Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew

Image of Christ's Second Coming. Icon from Greece, circa 1700.
Icon of the Second Coming of Christ. Anonymous, Greece, circa 1700.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of Matthew 23:39–Matthew 24:51 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1–55. Differences are highlighted in the right column in bold. Subtle changes, such as exchanging the word you for ye, are in bold italics. Words that have been deleted are struck through. I hope this helps you as you seek to discern the signs of the times. They are coming at us pretty fast.

Matthew 23:39–Matthew 24:51 Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1–55
23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. 1 For I say unto you, that ye shall not see me henceforth and know that I am he of whom it is written by the prophets, until ye shall say: Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, in the clouds of heaven, and all the holy angels with him. Then understood his disciples that he should come again on the earth, after that he was glorified and crowned on the right hand of God.
1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and his disciples came to him, for to hear him, saying: Master, shew him show us concerning the buildings of the temple, as thou hast said—They shall be thrown down, and left unto you desolate.
2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And Jesus said unto them: See ye not all these things, and do ye not understand them? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here, upon this temple, one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.
3 ¶ And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus left them, and went upon the Mount of Olives. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying: Tell us when shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; and what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 And Jesus answered, and said unto them: Take heed that no man deceive you;
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 For many shall come in my name, sayingI am Christand shall deceive many;
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 7 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations, for my name’s sake;
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 8 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another;
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 9 And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many;
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 10 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold;
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 11 But he that shall endure unto the end remaineth steadfast and is not overcome, the same shall be saved.
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 12 When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place; whoso readeth let him understand.
16 Then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains: 13 Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains;
17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 14 Let him who is on the housetop flee, and not return to take anything out of his house;
18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 15 Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes;
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 16 And wo unto them that are with child, and unto them that give suck in those days;
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 17 But Therefore, pray ye the Lord that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day;
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 18 For then, in those days, shall be great tribulation on the Jews, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, such as was not before sent upon Israel, of God, since the beginning of the world their kingdom to until this time; no, nor ever shall be sent again upon Israel.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 19 All things which have befallen them are only the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon them.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 20 And except those days should be shortened, there should no none of their flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, according to the covenant, those days shall be shortened.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 21 Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not;
24 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. 22 For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all these things I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.
25 Behold, I have told you before. 24 Behold, I have told you before;
26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 25 Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not;
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 26 For as the lightning of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 27 And now I show unto you a parable. For Behold, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together; so likewise shall mine elect be gathered from the four quarters of the earth.
28 And they shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 29 Behold I speak for mine elect’s sake; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
30 And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 31 And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked;
32 And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled.
29 ¶ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 33 And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 34 Verily, I say unto you, this generation, in which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all these things I have told you shall be fulfilled.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 35 Although, the days will come, that heaven and earth shall pass away; but yet my words shall not pass away, but all shall be fulfilled.
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 36 And, as I said before, after the tribulation of those days, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 37 And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with a the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 38 Now learn a parable of the fig treeWhen his its branches is are yet tender, and it begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand;
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 39 So likewise ye, mine elect, when ye they shall see all these things, they shall know that it is he is near, even at the doors;
36 ¶ But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 40 But of that day, and hour, no man one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only.
37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 41 But as it was in the days of Noah were, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 42 For it shall be with them, as it was in the days that which were before the flood; for until that the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 43 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 44 Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 45 Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
42 ¶ Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 47 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 48 Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 49 Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 50a Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing;
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 50b and verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 51 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord delayeth his coming,
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 52 And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 53 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 54 And shall cut him asunder, and shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
55 And thus cometh the end of the wicked, according to the prophecy of Moses, saying: They shall be cut off from among the people; but the end of the earth is not yet, but by and by.

Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision Retold as a Single Narrative

Let Him Ask of God Kindle CoverIn honor of the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, I just published a new book on the subject that combines many early accounts and weaves them into a single narrative. From the introduction of the book:

Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1820 is one of the best attested visions in recorded history. In honor of the 200th anniversary of this sacred event, I’ve carefully reviewed Joseph’s primary, first-person and the contemporary, third-person accounts of this remarkable vision, the story together into a single narrative, attempting to fit the pieces together into completed puzzle.

This book is a sort of translation of historical fragments and part historical fiction, subjectively told but intended to help create a picture of what actually happened. It’s a “based on actual events” retelling that takes as little literary license as possible, though certainly some is taken. I did my best to preserve the original story with great sensitivity as I wove the parts together, seeking to favor the reader’s experience over the critic’s.

I modernized or corrected spelling, added quotation marks, altered some word order and punctuation, dropped some words and phrases in favor of clarity, and added transition words to help with the flow of the story.

I first heard the story of the First Vision from a close friend when I was 17 years old when not yet a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The moment I heard the story, I believed it with all my heart. It filled my soul with fire and set me on a lifelong path of faith and joy. I totter from time to time, but I’m still on the path.

I learned on my journey to baptism that disbelief is based on filling in blanks with assumptions. I call it “closed case” thinking. Real faith, on the other hand, is based on seeking with an open heart and mind. It is “cold case” thinking, a relentless detective’s search, never giving up, never stopping short but searching far and wide and deep for answers. (

See Steven C. Harper’s Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts, chapters 1 and 8 for an inspiring comparison of seeker versus assumer. I highly recommend his book.
)

I trust you will find this retelling of the First Vision worthy of your consideration. When I meet Joseph again and he beats me soundly at stick pull, should he beat me over the head with that stick for being so audacious to publish a book like this, I’ll take my lumps and love him still.

I’ve priced it low so it’s within reach of any budget. You’ll find it on Amazon.

“The Lamb” by William Blake

John Tavener’s arrangement of “The Lamb,” a poem written by William Blake in the late 18th century, touched me deeply this Christmas season. See lyrics below. This is the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing Tavener’s arrangement in 2014.

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

William Blake was an English Romantic poet and painter who lived from 1757 until 1827. This poem was first published in Songs of Innocence in 1789.

[First posted in May 2010. Thanks to Paul S. for sharing a link to a 2008 recording of King’s Choir. ]

Nephi’s Formula for Spiritual Success

Courtesy Gospel Media Library © By Intellectual Reserve, Inc.There was a critical event in the Book of Mormon that doesn’t get headlined very often. It was when Nephi was dealing with the bitterness, doubts, and scorn of his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

Instead of allowing his brothers to dissuade and discourage him, he took his questions to the Lord independently. And he got a crystal clear answer. It’s one of my favorite verses in the whole book. Here it is:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Nephi 2:16.)

Hinge Points

We all have hinge points. Sometimes those points open doors, other times they close them. To me, this was Nephi’s hinge point. Maybe it was hinge point of the whole Book of Mormon epic. I mean, if Nephi had followed his brothers’ examples and become a Mr. Grumble Grump, would we even have a Book of Mormon?

Well, I suppose the Lord would call and install another, as his works cannot be frustrated (see Doctrine and Covenants 3:1,3), but Nephi would not have been in the picture. Well, maybe he would have been another bad example. The Book of Mormon has a herd of goats and Nephi could have been numbered among them.

Nephi’s Formula

Here’s my take on Nephi’s formula.

  1. He had a great desire to know and understand the mysteries and will of God.
  2. He prayed to the Lord, at the right time, for the right reasons. It seems he didn’t just say his prayers, but cried out to God in some pain and great earnestness.
  3. The Lord visited him and softened his heart so that he believed all the words of his father.

This formula works for me and you if we have the faith to apply it. That’s my experience. We don’t have to wait for someone else’s explanation. We can get an answer directly from the Lord. It takes time, patience, and repentance.

“I Will Go and Do . . .”

It was after his prayer that Nephi returned to his father’s tent and uttered these now famous words:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7).

Nephi must have had a remarkable experience to declare his faith and commitment like this. From what we can gather from the pages of 1 and 2 Nephi, that experience never left him.

Put Your Trust in Him

I have had a both good life and a difficult one. I have had lots of personal troubles—I still have plenty of them—but I’ve also had my own spiritual experiences, my own quiet triumphs. I make mistakes every day that I regret, but with all my heart, I believe these words from Alma the Younger:

I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 38:5.)

The Lord has led me out of my trials because when I take them to Him, He can help me—and He can help you. He can help everyone, no matter where they are on the trail. It takes patience and a humble heart, but God always delivers those who don’t give up on their faith in Him.

But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage. (Mosiah 7:33.)

Wow! Now that’s a promise. I like to think he will deliver us for any and all kinds of bondage: pride, deception, bad habits, bad attitudes, intellectualism, judgment, perfectionism, lust, addictions, sins new and old—He will deliver us from any and all of them, if we can manage to trust Him and act on that trust.