“How Thankful We Should Be to Know the Truth”: Zebedee Coltrin’s Witness of the Heavenly Origins of Temple Ordinances

Abstract: In this article, we examine circumstantial evidence for the claim of Zebedee Coltrin, contained in a secondhand report within a heretofore unpublished letter, that Jesus Christ came personally to the Kirtland Temple over an extended period to give instruction about temple work. After summarizing what Joseph Smith seems to have known about temple ordinances by 1836, we attempt to show when and how the experience reported in the letter might have occurred. We give short biographies of the participants in the story of the letter: Luna Ardell “Dell” Hinckley Paul, Zebedee Coltrin, and “Brother Potter.” We cite Matthew. B. Brown’s observations on the question of why it might have been expedient that the Saints wait several years before receiving the full complement of temple ordinances that were eventually administered in Nauvoo. Both a typescript and a reproduction of the manuscript of the letter are provided, as is an additional letter to family members from co-author K-Lynn Paul describing the circumstances under which his grandmother’s letter was found and donated to the Church. The Dell Paul letter is consistent with arguments that the Prophet learned much about temple ordinances through personal experiences with heavenly beings, translations, and revelations as much as a decade before he got to Nauvoo. If the letter’s claim that Jesus Christ “stood and talked to them just as I am talking to you” is accurately reported, it provides an additional witness of the Savior’s frequent presence in Kirtland in 1836. Continue reading

Reflecting on the “Marks of Jesus”

Abstract: Loss, pain, and suffering are too often, it seems, co-sojourners through our lives. To one degree or another, we all become familiar with these elements of a life lived in an imperfect world. It is inevitable — and virtually universal — that such companions foster questions about the meaning of life and whether there is a God who is the author, director, and finisher of that meaning. For those who conclude that God is real and has part in our lives, suffering can have or acquire eternal significance, enhanced by the personal realization that God, too, suffers and has suffered. In the Christian paradigm, God shares our suffering and we, in turn, share in His. In the depths of our sorrow we have, literally, a “co-sufferer” sharing our journey. As Christians, we are called upon to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. This act not only gives us a new name, but may require us to bear loss, pain, and suffering as did Christ — to acquire the “marks of Jesus” in our own lives. Indeed, for some, such bearing may be a key part of becoming what God plans for us to become. Continue reading

The Yoke of Christ: A Light Burden Heavy With Meaning

Abstract: Christ’s famous call to take his yoke upon us in Matthew 11 may merit more analysis than it has commonly received. Taking up the yoke may have connections to other things that are taken upon us as well, including the name of Christ, temple covenants, priestly robes, and sacred anointing. These all reflect a relationship of obedience and service to the Master, who set the example by taking the heaviest yoke of all upon him, including the yoke-like beam of the cross that he carried to Golgotha and the full weight of human sin and misery as he suffered for us. Our yoke is easy, and the burden of the cross we are called to take up (Matthew 16:24; 3 Nephi 12:30) is light indeed relative to what he bore or to bearing the weight of our own sins. However, his call, while rooted in grace, implies actual effort and work, not belief alone. It is a call for faithful service, linked to him in sacred covenants most fully expressed in the sacred temple. A review of ancient scripture, early Christian writing, some Jewish perspectives, and modern revelation gives us insights into the richness of meaning that may be associated with taking upon us the yoke of Christ and entering into his rest. Continue reading

Jesus Christ’s Interactions with the Women of the New Testament

Abstract: In this paper, Christ’s ministry is characterized by his relationship with the females found in the four gospels. The drastic differences between the ways Jesus and society treated women are emphasized. The culture into which Christ was born had degraded women for generations. Under Christ’s leadership first-century priesthood brethren were shown how to treat women. However, after Christ’s ascension Hellenistic philosophy pervaded the Christian Church’s thinking and accelerated an apostate perception of women. This study explores Jesus’s actions and teachings which restored women’s true identity. In short, this paper focuses on the reverence, respect, and loving kindnesses, that Christ showed women. By studying Jesus’s example we are taught that women are an integral part of divine creation having individual worth. Continue reading

Three Streams of Gratitude for Jesus

Note from the editors: In remembrance of the Easter celebration of Jesus’ victory over death, we are pleased to offer this specially written contribution from Mitt Romney.

Three streams of gratitude for Jesus have arisen during my lifetime. The first crested when as a child, fearing polio or tornadoes or intruders, I learned that “Jesus loves me.” Not only did “the Bible tell me so,” but also my mother and my Bishop. I felt Jesus looking down on me, protecting me, caring for me, answering my prayers. As life progressed, I came to learn that Jesus would not always intervene to shield me from the trials and travails of life, but I knew that He loved me and cared.

As a young man, it was the felicity of His gospel that grew in my heart. I was poised to make choices that would determine my mortal happiness. He had taught that love, family, friends, and service were the real currency of joy. With faith in that gospel, I married, raised children, nourished friendships, and endeavored to serve. And so the wealth in my heart grew beyond my imagining.

Now, approaching my autumn years, it is His victory over death that most captivates me. For sixty or so years of Easter Sundays, I have sung “He is Risen,” but for most of those years, I somehow felt that there was no real end in sight to my earth-bound life. Now, however, His condescension to live in mortality, to carry my sins, and then to rise to immortality is no longer just a chapter of doctrine, it is a gift of such magnitude that I cannot find sufficient words to express my gratitude. From the dark of never-ending nothingness, of eternal blindness, and of infinite absence from my family, He opens my eyes, my mind, and my heart. That He rose from the dead is His greatest gift of all.