Saturday, August 31, 2019

More about being clothed with light versus clothed with skins

This post has a great overview of what Adam and Eve wore prior to and following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden:

רא “Ore” Strong’s 216 – light

רע “Ore” Strong’s 5785 – skin

The phonetic pronunciation of these two words are identical, yet they mean two very different things. Both words are spelled with a silent first letter (the aleph for “light” and the aiyin for “skin) followed by the resh.

Many rabbis believe that Adam and Eve, being made in the image of God, went from being clothed in ore (light) to being clothed in ore (skin). Upon sinning they exchanged a nature of light for a nature of flesh. See the wonderful play on words?

Genesis 3:7 says, “The eyes of [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” The Hebrew word for “knew” in this verse is yada. It means “to learn, to perceive, to have knowledge of.” Many rabbis interpret that this verse is saying Adam and Eve yada (learned) that they had just become naked, whereas they had beforehand been clothed in “light.”

These seem to be very ancient Israelite ideas which are very deeply engrained in Nephite culture.

The symbolism in Alma 46

When Nephite dissenters wanted to destroy their liberty in Alma 46, Moroni rent his coat (v.12), an Israelite sign of great anguish.
And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it
In response, all Nephites who supported the cause of freedom rent their garments too (v.21). Moroni then makes the connection to Joseph of Egypt because
  • The Nephites are his descendents (remnant of his seed)
  • His coat was rent like that of the Nephites
  • His brothers were his enemies, just like the Amalickiahites were the brothers and enemies of the Nephites
  • His brothers wanted to slay him, ended up selling him and he was cast into prison in Egypt (note Moroni's wording at the end of verse 23)
23 Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.
24 Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.
25 Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son, because of that part of his seed which shall be taken unto God.
26 Now behold, this was the language of Jacob.
27 And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ.
There is a lot of neat symbolism here
  1. Rending their garments was a token. Even as they had rent their garments, so they would be rent if they fell into transgression
  2. The Nephites were a remnant of Joseph and a preserved piece of his rent coat serves as a symbol of the Nephites in the Americas who were his descendants
  3. Moroni took a 'remnant' of his torn coat and used it as the title of liberty. This is a symbol of the preserved piece of Joseph's coat or the Nephites. Moroni reminded them that they as this remnant needed to stay faithful in order to be preserved like Joseph had been preserved
It's also interesting that the italic part is a quote by Jacob, Joseph's father from the brass plates, which we don't have in the Bible.

Friday, August 30, 2019

"Nakedness before God" as opposed to "the glory of God"

In yesterday's post, we started to look at how the concept of "whiteness" is used in the Book of Mormon as a symbol of covenant keeping. Specifically, a covenant-keeper is clothed in a garment that has been washed white through the blood of the Lamb of God.

Here is a related example, from Mormon 9:

4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.

Reading these verses, the word "nakedness" stands out.  At the time of the Fall, Adam and Eve realized their nakedness and God clothed them with coats of skins (see Genesis 3:21).

Suppose rejecting the covenant entails taking off the coat of skins given by God and breaking His commandments.  (In a sunny climate, this could certainly impact skin tones, but I consider that to be of secondary importance relative to the rejection of the covenant.)

Nakedness also happens to be a commonly used descriptor of the Lamanites who have abandoned the covenant. A good example of this is found in Alma 3:

5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.
6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
So in Mormon 9, Moroni is overtly telling those who do not believe in Christ that they see their nakedness before God and also behold His glory. "Nakedness" in contrast to the "glory of God" makes a lot of sense in the context of the Hebrew root 'addereth' meaning "garment, glory, goodly, mantle, robe". It's a Hebrew pun, perhaps?

The case for all of this symbolizing covenant-keeping gets stronger the more we look into it, in my opinion.

In future posts on this subject, I'll demonstrate numerous examples in the Book of Mormon where the terms "curse" and "darkness"  are associated with sin and rebellion. It is helpful for me to think of this as a symbolic rejection of the covenant. (I don't find it very helpful to think of it strictly as skin tone, which is perhaps where our modern sensibilities might jump if we take it out of context.)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Alma-2 references the teachings of Nephi

In Alma 5, Alma the Younger talk to the people of Zarahemla and teaches them what they need to do in order to receive salvation.

21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.

Sure enough, this same teaching was revealed to Nephi, which we find in 1 Nephi 12:

10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.
11 And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.

This same concept is referenced again by Moroni, writing to those who do not believe in Christ.  From Mormon 9:

6 O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.

Much has been written about the extensive description of the righteous peoples of the Book of Mormon being "fair" and "white," but I believe these descriptors refer to the spiritual effects of keeping covenants. For the most part, the Nephites were the covenant-keepers, whereas the Lamanites were those who had rejected the covenant.

Over a series of posts, I'm going to review how the Book of Mormon uses terms like light/white/fair/delightsome to refer to making and keeping covenants.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Light versus Darkness in Alma 37

I’m beginning to build a long list of examples of what I believe to be a major theme in the Book of Mormon--light and darkness.  I believe this was closely associated with faithfulness to God. You can expect to read a lot more about this over the coming weeks as I gather more and more examples, but to give a glimpse of what I mean, let’s take a look at one chapter, Alma 37.

I love this chapter for a lot of reasons.  It gives us an “insider’s view” into the type of instructions that came with the sacred records.

References to “light” or "brightness" in Alma 37:

The records will “retain their brightness
I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me
"I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations; and except they repent I will destroy them from off the face of the earth; and I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations, unto every nation that shall hereafter possess the land."

In each of these examples, “light/brightness” is associated with God’s plans for His children.

References to “dark” in Alma 37:

“Works of darkness...secret works” led to destruction
“His people began to work in darkness
“...that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations.”
"I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations; and except they repent I will destroy them from off the face of the earth; and I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations, unto every nation that shall hereafter possess the land."
"...their secret abominations have been brought out of darkness and made known unto us."
"...all their signs and their wonders ye shall keep from this people, that they know them not, lest peradventure they should fall into darkness also and be destroyed."
"...For behold, there is a curse upon all this land, that destruction shall come upon all those workers of darkness..."
"...thus the judgments of God did come upon these workers of darkness and secret combinations."
"Yea, and cursed be the land forever and ever unto those workers of darkness and secret combinations, even unto destruction, except they repent before they are fully ripe."

In all of these examples, “darkness” is associated with elements such as sin, a curse, secret abominations, and destruction.

More and more of these examples will pop out as you study. Think about the “mists of darkness” and the “white” fruit of the tree of life, for example. For me, this theme is a far more thorough and compelling explanation for the difference in the appearance of the Nephites and Lamanites, rather than the skin color theory.  More about that in the near future.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Publishing the Engravings

In Alma 63:12, we learn that Helaman-2 distributed (most of) the words that were written on the plates when they came into his possession:

12 Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth.

This of course requires the people to have had at least one writing system.

The caveat is that some of the engravings had been commanded not to be given to the people. Mormon goes out of his way to mention that in publishing the words, Helaman did not disobey the commands of his grandfather Alma-2, which we can read in Alma 37:

27 And now, my son, I command you that ye retain all their oaths, and their covenants, and their agreements in their secret abominations; yea, and all their signs and their wonders ye shall keep from this people, that they know them not, lest peradventure they should fall into darkness also and be destroyed.

Mormon brings up these "secret oaths" on several other occasions, too.  (See Helaman 6:25 and Helaman 8:3.)

The end of Mormon's abridgment

When Mormon abridges the records and gets to the end of a book, he often writes something like "and thus ended the record of x", always in the past tense. See for instance
  • Alma 44:24: "And thus ended the record of Alma, which was written upon the plates of Nephi." 
  • Alma 63:17: "And thus ended the account of Alma, and Helaman his son, and also Shiblon, who was his son."
  • Helaman 15:25: "And thus ended the book of Helaman, according to the record of Helaman and his sons."

In the last verse in 4th Nephi, he writes: 
And thus is the end of the record of Ammaron. 
What is noticeable about this is the shift to present tense. It is subtle, yet distinct. It makes a lot of sense because Ammaron is the last one to write on the plates before Mormon. In other words, Mormon is now done with the abridgment, so this is it, this is the end. On the other hand, if it's Joseph Smith making it all up (which I obviously don't believe), it’s just very clever!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A deep dive into Helaman 5, part 2 of 2

In part 1, I made note of numerous examples of internal consistency found in just the first 13 verses of Helaman 5.  The remainder of the chapter also includes references to other chapters as well as an incident which is later referred to twice.

Verses 14-52 -- The missionary experiences of Nephi-2 and Lehi-2

In these verses we learn about the missionary experiences of Nephi and Lehi.

In verse 14-16, they begin preaching in the city of Bountiful and then head south through Mulek and Gid until they come to Zarahemla.  This reflects the internally consistent geography of the the Nephite lands -- Bountiful is north of Zarahemla, which is first mentioned in detail in Alma 22:29-33.

Note that the land of Zarahemla is now held by the Lamanites, a detail we learn about in Helaman 4:5.

In verse 17, Nephi and Lehi confound Nephite dissenters who "had gone over from the Nephites", which we learned about back in Alma 63.

In verses 20-21, the brothers head to the Land of Nephi and end up being cast into the same prison that "Ammon and his brethren" were held by the "servants of Limhi".  This refers back to an incident we read about in Mosiah 7:6-8.

Then something remarkable happens.  A group of men come to the prison to slay their captives, and a miraculous event takes place that very clearly foreshadows the visit of the Resurrected Christ to the Nephites.  Here are some parallels:

Helaman 5
3 Nephi 8-17
27 words, the earth shook exceedingly, and the walls of the prison did shake as if they were about to tumble to the earth;
8:6 ...and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder.
28 And it came to pass that they were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness, and an awful solemn fear came upon them.
8:20 And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;
29 And it came to pass that there came a voice as if it were above the cloud of darkness,
9:1 And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, 
43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire
48 And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them.
17:24 And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.
45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.
9:20 ...And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
49 And there were about three hundred souls who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt.
17:25 And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.

It seems very clear to me that the prison experience is foreshadowing the destruction, vapor of darkness, and visitation detailed in 3 Nephi.

It is also worth noting that in a completely unrelated part of the Book of Mormon, reference is made to the missionary work of Nephi and Lehi. Moroni delivers a masterful sermon on faith, found in Ether 12, in which he references back to the experiences of Nephi-2 and Lehi-2 among the Lamanites:

14 Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

 Compare this with Helaman 5:

44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.

In addition to this, there is a subtle little detail worth mentioning, tucked away in this story. Aminadab (which is a biblical name meaning "my kinsmen are noble"), is a Nephite dissenter living among the Lamanites. In the midst of the mist of darkness, he offers an explanation to the men in the prison as to what Nephi and Lehi are doing, then tells the men what they ought to do:

41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.

In typical Nephite fashion, Aminadab offers the three names of men who have taught the people about Christ.  One of them is Zeezrom, the lawyer who contends with Amulek in Ammonihah back in Alma 11. (Did you happen to recall that Amulek is descended from a man named Aminadi? See Alma 10:2.) Do you recall what became of Zeezrom after this experience?  I've read the Book of Mormon many times, and I could recall off the top of my head that he left Ammonihah and came down with a fever (see Alma 15:3). Then Alma baptizes him. In all the times I read the Book of Mormon, I missed this subtle detail, though (until I went looking for it) -- Zeezrom became a missionary. From Alma 15:

12 And Alma baptized Zeezrom unto the Lord; and he began from that time forth to preach unto the people.
Here is another mention of Zeezrom as a missionary, from Alma 31:

5 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
6 Therefore he took Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner; and Himni he did leave in the church in Zarahemla; but the former three he took with him, and also Amulek and Zeezrom, who were at Melek; and he also took two of his sons.
Isn't that wonderful?  The same two men contending with each other in Alma 11 are now missionary companions among the Zoramites!

One final note, in Alma 37, Alma-2 reminds his son Helaman that the records helped Ammon bring thousands of the Lamanites to a knowledge of their redeemer.  Then he adds this:

10 And who knoweth but what they will be the means of bringing many thousands of them, yea, and also many thousands of our stiffnecked brethren, the Nephites, who are now hardening their hearts in sin and iniquities, to the knowledge of their Redeemer?

This, of course is exactly what happens in Helaman 5 (see verses 17-19).

Summary and Conclusion

What can be made of all of these connections between verses in Helaman 5 and so many other chapters in the Book of Mormon?  I think it is significant evidence that Joseph Smith could not have held all of this information in his head at one time, without notes of some kind.

Let's summarize what we found in this chapter alone:

Hel. 5:
Connects with
Relevant details
# of chapters apart
Helaman 6
Cezoram, the chief judge,  is murdered.
Mosiah 29:25-27
“Voice of the people”
Helaman 3
Nephi and Lehi are brothers
Alma 4
Giving up the judgment seat to preach the word
1 Nephi 2
Nephi and Lehi
2 Nephi 33:4
“Remember/Good/ eternal life”
Mosiah 3:17
Quotes King Benjamin
Alma 11:36-40
Quotes Amulek
2 Nephi 28:28
“Rock of our redeemer”
2 Nephi 1
“Gulf of misery and endless wo”
Alma 37:27
“Things which are not written”
Alma 22:29-33
Geography of Bountiful
Helaman 4:5
Lamanites occupy Zarahemla
Alma 63
Nephite dissenters among Lamanites
Mosiah 7:6-8
Ammon’s prison
3 Nephi 8-17
Foreshadowing Christ’s visit
Ether 12:14
Lamanites baptized with fire
Alma 15:12; 31:6
Zeezrom preaches
53, 37
Alma 37:10
Alma-2 predicts future missionary success

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