I've been reading the 1830 Book of Commandments as reprinted in The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations, Vol. 2. I've been struck by how many clarifications Christ made of His role to the early saints. It is apparent there were a number of false notions in circulation about who Christ was and what His future role would include.
The Lord clarifies that the saints should: "look not for a Messiah to come which has already come." (Chapter XVI, verse 27.)
He later adds that when He does return: "they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory, with all the holy angels." (Chapter XLVIII, verse 37.)
If that were not enough to remove the question about His return, He further explains: "the Son of Man cometh not in the form of a woman, neither of a man travelling on the earth." (Chapter LII, verse 21.)
He mentions Enoch, telling us that Enoch and his brethren "were separated from the earth, and were reserved unto [God], a city reserved until a day of righteouensss shall come, a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations." (Chapter XLVIII, verse 14.) Since "all holy men" sought for this city, but found it not, it is apparent that the rule is failure because holy men cannot teach righteousness to the wicked who prefer their abominations, pride, vanity and errors. The exception is success.
The Lord clarifies there will be success before the world will see Him. He will have a holy city built, which He will call "the New Jerusalem." There, His glory will rest upon these few inhabitants: "it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the most high God. And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it: And it shall be called Zion." (Chapter XLVIII, verses 59-61.)
When He does show Himself to the world again, it will be in judgment: "I the Lord ...will come down in heaven from the presence of God, and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire." (Chapter LXIV, verse 36.)
I've heard some of the same errors discussed among Latter-day Saints who would know better if they read the scriptures. As early as 1830 the Lord explained He was the Messiah, and had already come. He will not return as a man walking on the earth, but will come in glory and judgment when He returns, and that we need not look for another to come in that way.
I am surprised at how difficult it is to hold on to doctrine. It evaporates almost before our eyes. Perhaps the greatest miracle of the ages will be this latter day New Jerusalem. For, despite all the wickedness and abominable beliefs of mankind urging them to vanity and faithless pride, there will be some small group willing to learn and walk in the way of God. That will be a miracle indeed among the people living in this generation.
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