Monday, May 15, 2017

A Higher Order


We learn from history that God offers a higher way of being that is often rejected.  When it is, a lower level is introduced, likely without much notice, so as to offer to the people the level they desire, and invite those who desire more to rise up.  Most are more comfortable with the lower level, as it is complete with rules and structure to keep people busy and seemingly fulfilled.  It is more comfortable also because they can rely upon someone else, usually a prophet figure, to tell them what God wants them to do.  They can even find joy in this way of living (3 Nephi 27:11).  The people involved begin to build up the lower way as if it were the higher way, and forget or are ignorant of the fact that it is only an invitation, a call to rise up.  They make it a cheap imitation of the higher way.  It ends up damning them in the progress they desire, because the progress they desire only comes by becoming and living the higher way.

I have thought often how, like others written about in history, we can quickly find ourselves in the lower way.  Even more concerning is the difficulty in recognizing our rejection of the higher way in our preference for the lower.  

When the children of Israel rejected the greater priesthood in the wilderness, they were given only a portion or a lesser priesthood.  "Aaronic" being the label given to the lower way, and "Melchizedek" being the label given to the higher.  Rather than just thinking of Aaronic and Melchizedek as only priesthood authority, think of the two ways as different approaches to associate with Heaven.  I'm going to continue to use "lower" and "higher" to describe these two ways because of the associations we have with the terms Aaronic and Melchizedek.  Where there are quotes that use the terms "Aaronic" and/or "Melchizedek", match them up with higher and lower as I attempt to make this point.

Following are some scriptures and quotes that help identify the characteristics of the lower and higher ways.
18 And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. (D&C 84)
When you receive the higher ordinances that manifest the power of godliness, and are able to behold the face of God, then you are a part of the higher order.  The pattern we see explained in the scriptures above shows that when an offer to come up to the Melchizedek/higher level is rejected (or not sought after with real intent, with all of our hearts), the Lord begins to deal with us at the Aaronic/lower level.   We see the Lord offering a preparatory gospel consisting of repentance and baptism and the law of carnal commandments.  The wrath described here is the Lord taking a step back, away from those who reject the higher order.
“The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions.” [The Mosaic law was given, and the priesthood was accommodated in order to pour out judgments and destruction. This explains a great deal about the lower portion or Aaronic/ Levitical priesthood.] D& C 1: 8 is a description of the authority of the lower priesthood. “And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious; Yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure—Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.” [These are all sealing up unto destruction. These condemn and are, in a word, Aaronic. Notwithstanding the condemnatory role, the Aaronic priesthood is not without hope. It has the power to baptize, which is an ordinance of hope.]
Continuing with Joseph’s sermon: “There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. First, The king of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. Angels,” [Remember there being different ranks or levels of angels.] “desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes.” [These angels were unwilling to receive what they might have received, and as a consequence of that, they could not go on in their development. D& C 132: 16 describes some ways we can limit ourselves:] “Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory." [Because of their unwillingness to receive what God offers us, they were damned, or in other words they limited their development.] Joseph goes on to say, “God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned.” [If we reject what is offered, we limit ourselves. Then, after this life, when we realize what we have done to ourselves, we condemn ourselves for our folly]. (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 181-182)
We become stuck in the lower order when we put down stakes (tie ourselves to our comfortable traditions that do not lead us to the higher order), or we are unwilling to receive what is offered to us, instead rejecting the offer we might have received.  The offer comes with a requirement to sacrifice all things, and if there is an unwillingness to do this, then in effect, we refuse to receive what we might have received.  In other words, we reject it.
"The Melchizedek is given for blessing and giving life. If someone claims to hold Melchizedek priesthood but use it to judge, condemn, control, compel, and assert authority over the souls of men, then it is a sign they hold no such authority. If they refuse to limit themselves to persuasion, gentleness, and meekness then that alone is a sign that the man uses Aaronic and not Melchizedek authority (if they have authority at all). Because the office and the authority and the keys of the Melchizedek is given by God to a man to bless, to enlighten, to raise you up by bringing to you light and truth, which is the glory of God, or intelligence." (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 183)
If and when we find ourselves judging, condemning, controlling or compelling others, we know that we are acting from the lower level of being.  Using threats of a religious nature (God is going to burn you up if you don't ______) that instills fear as a motivator is a lower level way to teach.  It is also very easy to deceive ourselves and others that we are not doing those things, while inside we are angry and full of judgement and condemnation.  If you find yourself acting kind and loving around others, and then talking about them behind their back (even to yourself) then you are acting at the lower level of being.

If you find that your motivation for taking any action that you perceive God wants you to take is fear, whether it is fear of loss, fear of missing out, fear of pain, or fear of what others might think, then you are coming from a lower level of thinking.

The higher way of being requires sacrifice of self.  It requires coming from a position of love.  It requires that you begin to dispense light and truth to others, because you are beginning to be filled with light and truth.  You begin to actually be a blessing to others, because you are willing to truly sacrifice for others.
The Aaronic or Levitical is an association with angels. The Melchizedek is an association with the Son of God. The patriarchal is an association with the Father, and makes one a son of God. (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 180) [A third level is introduced here that we won't address in this post]
The level of heaven we are associating with helps us understand the level of being we are currently living.

The following is a side by side comparison with some of my thoughts on these levels of being.  There are likely more, but this chart is meant to be thought provoking only.


Lower
Higher
Separates and divides, compares, competes and contrasts, puts people in a box with labels.  Only sees "separateness"
Works to bring all together, gathers and lifts. Is inclusive.  Gathers from without its present circle or community, continually invites those living at a lower level to come up.  Recognizes "oneness"

Judges, blames, accuses and condemns others
Takes responsibility for self and others

Fear, feigned love, enmity, envy, jealousy, coveting 
Unfeigned love, charity

Outward or physical ordinances
The fruit or desired outcome of the physical ordinance, baptism of fire, piercing the veil, etc.

Baptism of water
 Baptism of fire
Ordinances in a temple
Become a Temple                   
Physical
Spiritual

Facade
Becoming
Outward
Inward
Routines and repetitions that point higher
Spirit led, erratic, irregular, like the wind

Tithing
Consecration
Sacrifice of things (animals or tithing)
Sacrifice of self and one's own life

Pretense
Real intent
Enforces
Enlightens
Attempts to convince by argument
Works to persuade with pure knowledge

Letter of the law
Spirit of the law

Appeals to the authority and message of a "Moses" (a man of God)
Knows God and has direct authority from Him

Desires and needs a prophet figure/leader
Respects other prophets and spokesmen, but has no need of a spokesman or intermediary figure, is a prophet. Needs no man to say or to show how to, "know ye the Lord".


When the higher order is rejected, whether it be overt rejection or rejection by any level of our own apathy, what do we then begin to see emphasized?  A preparatory gospel.  Repentance and baptism, ordinances and performances, laws and commandments that have to do with the outward or carnal self, all preparatory things that continue to invite us to come up.  If we remain at the Aaronic level however, we are damned and cannot progress any further.

We also typically see that those involved in the Aaronic level of living begin to believe that what they are doing is all that is necessary for their salvation and exaltation.   They replace "becoming" with "doing" and re-orient their understanding of the gospel around the "doing", and ignore the description "preparatory gospel".  Rather, they call what they have a fullness, yet it the lacks the obvious power that previous dispensations had.

Again:
18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church--
19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments. (D&C 107)
This higher order involves association with the heavens.   
Continuing with Joseph, “The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.” If the children of Israel were cursed by God because they wanted Moses to speak to God for them, how much greater must be the damnation upon those who teach that they will talk to God for us and therefore we do not need to. This is heresy and a doctrine of the devil taught by purveyors of a false priestcraft. Such teaching is unauthorized and unsanctioned by God. They suffer not themselves to enter in to salvation, and they hedge up the way for all who heed them.  No man on his own errand can offer salvation. But if God sends a message you better heed it, even if you find it difficult to hear. Joseph continues, “What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.” The Melchizedek is given for blessing and giving life.  (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 182-183)
Moses held this higher order, but because the children of Israel would not come up to that fiery mount, preferring a spokesman and waiting for that spokesman to come and tell them what God wanted for them, they were held back from the higher order.
Continuing, “The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant." [But the oath and the covenant is the oath and the covenant that is given by the Father. It's not these verses which we read from Section 84 to the newly ordained church Elder. These verses are only an aspiration to the church’s Elders. While it's very good to have aspirational notions preached to us in connection with the priesthood we should realize an aspiration is not a reality. Similarly knowledge concerning the covenant is not the same thing as possessing the covenant itself. Therefore, if you're going to receive the covenant which cannot be broken, it is obtained by, and from, the Father.] Continuing, "The Holy Ghost is God's messenger to administer in all those priesthoods." [You see, it was by faith and the power of the Holy Ghost, that Melchizedek did what he did. And if someone gets possession of any or all of these priesthoods, administering in them must be through the power of the Holy Ghost. I just read you what Joseph said: “It is by the power of the Holy Ghost.” So let me ask you the question, and you answer it yourself: Let us assume the case that a woman is filled with the Holy Ghost. Rather like Anna in the temple when Christ was brought forth, and Anna, by the power of the Holy Ghost prophesies concerning the young babe, who had been brought to the temple. Given the fact that the authority by which priesthood is to become operative, as Joseph just explained, is the Holy Ghost, what possible difference does it make, if the prophetess Anna, standing in the temple, prophesying concerning the child who is brought in (see Luke 2: 36-38), cannot grab a knife and go over to the place where they tied the animals, and cut the throat of the sheep? Of what significance is it if she could not divide up and carry part of the carcass to the iron grate at the top of the ramp upon the altar where they burned it? And of what significance is it if she could not take the bowl and hyssop and walk around and splatter the four corners of the altar, at the bloodline of the altar? Why would it be more significant that Anna was deprived of the outward ordinance performance, then that she, as a prophetess, filled with the Holy Ghost, spake and prophesied concerning the Son of God on the day that He was brought to the temple, for the offering of the cleansing of Mary, having completed her day? Only a fool would prize the outward performance above the power of the Holy Ghost animating Anna on that day. Those priests performing their functions were unaware of the babe’s significance. Unless, of course, they gave heed to the testimony of the prophetess. (Denver Snuffer Priesthood Talk p. 22-23)
Prizing the outward ordinances and preparatory gospel above the inward "becoming" and gospel fullness is foolish.  While the outward ordinances can help us to come into understanding of what God wants for us, we would be foolish to set aside the higher order in exchange for a set of physical rituals meant to point us higher.
“[T]he Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses.” [The people who God claimed as “His” were nevertheless “stiffnecked people.” He didn’t abandon them because of their spiritual stubbornness. Nor did He reject them because they were suffering from their own pride and self‑will. They were still “His.” But, because they were unable or unwilling to really come to Him and be redeemed from the fall, He gave them something to trouble them. He gave them the law of Moses which included a set of rules, sacrifices, ordinances and observances in a temple or House of God. There, in rich symbolism, they were reminded about the real thing—His presence. They were taught about His real nature. They were shown symbols that foreshadowed His coming into the world to be the bread of life, the light of the world, the sacrifice for sin, and the one through whose blood it was possible to enter back into the Holy of Holies. They had symbolic clothing, sacred language, divine ritual, and sacred space given them. All these symbolic rites were because they were “a stiffnecked people” unwilling to enter into His actual presence. 
These benighted and proud people then looked at all other religions and regarded them as less than “the chosen people” because the law of Moses given to them entrusted them with sacred space, sacred ritual, and sacred observances. These stiffnecked people regarded the law of Moses an end in itself.  It was their special set of rites, sacred space, hidden rituals participated in by only the “worthy” and “chosen few.” They were reassured that they were God’s chosen people. Unfortunately, they were chosen as an example of foolishness, pride, and ultimately the example of those who reject God and kill His Son all the while thinking they obeyed Him. They were chosen to show how to miss the mark as they stood atop sacred ground dedicated to the God they claimed to worship. They were chosen to be foolish, so we might be wise. They were chosen precisely because of their stiff necks to show how God does not delight in the mere observances of outward rituals, but expects our hearts to be made righteous. They illustrate how God rebuked the ancient chosen people for their failure to follow Him in their heart, rather than just in their empty ordinances.  (Preserving the Restoration p. 221-222)
Will we be given, or have we been given a test that offers both the higher and lower ways of approaching God?  Will we have to choose?  If you had been among the children of Israel when the higher order was offered and rejected by most, what would you have done?  How do you show God which order you prefer?  If most of those seeking the face of Christ fail in that pursuit, fail to be fundamentally changed, fail at being born again as a new creature, and instead turn to outward ordinances inside of a temple as a substitute, will we have lost our chance at becoming a part of Zion?
31 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31)
The covenant made with the children of Israel at the time of Moses was a written covenant full of rules, sacrifices, ordinances and observances in a temple setting.  It was outward or written outside of what was in their hearts, and they broke it and they were cursed.  It was Aaronic, it was the lower order.

This prophesy is a description of a people who have recognized the purpose of the lower order and have made the connection and gained access to heaven, and are active participants in the higher order. The covenant that blesses isn't found on paper, nor is it found in a man declaring it to his brother or neighbor, it is found in your heart, written there by the Lord Himself.

4 comments:

  1. Great post! Always nice to revisit these topics.

    I have a little different understanding of the "higher" and "lower" as described in your table.

    Joseph said that "All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it" (TPJS, p. 180)

    It seems like the post maybe tries to separate things that, as you said, should be gathered together. You say baptism of fire is higher than baptism of water. And that you say truly. But you don't get to have one without the other. You don't have a functional "higher" priesthood without the "lower". It is like saying, "I would like my head, but I would like it without my body". The head surely has more advanced cells and greater power than the cells of the body, but can do nothing if not with the body. The offer to be baptized in no way signifies that the Lord is "stepping back".

    You can not have baptism of fire without a foundation of baptism by water. Christ was required to be baptized by water to "fulfill all righteousness"(2 Ne. 31: 5-6) it was not because he was living a lower law that he was required to be baptized. He was fulfilling all righteousness. He disciples were likewise to accomplish this before being baptized by fire. (3 Nephi 19:13-14)

    The Higher Order doesn't reject the lower, it encompasses it. The Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God encompasses all priesthood.

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    1. Great comments! I realize that we are all going to have different ways of looking at things. While I agree that the lower should lead to the higher, I don't agree that you cannot have one without the other. You certainly can live according to the Aaronic order without ever living according to a Melchizedek order. The higher builds upon the lower. One possible exception to consider the baptism of fire preceding baptism of water is found in Helaman 5, where the Lamanites who were intent on murdering Nephi and Lehi were surrounded by fire and ministered to by angels and heard the voice of God. Christ describes this as a baptism of fire (if He is referring to this event) in 3 Nephi 9:20. The overall point of this post was that we should recognize that we are likely living according to the lower order, and that we should not settle for that level, but reach upward and work towards a higher order of living. I hope that came across. Again, thanks for your comments.

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