Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Old Testament views on the Messiah

In his posts on the ancient Holy Order, Lord Wilmore has argued that scriptures containing prophecies of Christ were altered by Jews who did not accept him as Messiah. This is an interesting topic and there are several clues in the Book of Mormon suggesting that disagreement on the Messiah and the purpose of the Law of Moses go way back and also extend into the New World with the Nephites.

Already in the first chapter, Lehi is called a prophet and starts proclaiming the Messiah
19 And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
20 And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away
Of course the Jews were angry because he testified of their wickedness and their abominations. But why would testifying of the coming of a Messiah anger them? One reason may be that Lehi talked about the "redemption of the world". The idea of a global redemption was not yet unanimous in Judaism at the time. Many thought that only Israel would be redeemed and the other nations would serve them. What Lehi said may have been provoking to some and their reaction shows that there was already controversy and disagreement among different groups of Jews regarding the Messiah. 

Another example is found in Alma 33:17 when Alma is referring to Zenock.

And now, my brethren, ye see that a second prophet of old has testified of the Son of God, and because the people would not understand his words they stoned him to death
 We see this same trend among Book of Mormon people. This is Sherem in Jacob 7:7
And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy
Another example is King Noah and his priests
And they [King Noah's priests] said: We teach the law of Moses. (Mosiah 12:28)
And they [King Noah's priests] answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses. (Mosiah 12:32)
(Abinadi speaking) were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses. (Mosiah 13:28) 
Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death. For thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men (Mosiah 17:7-8)
I'm not trying to say that Deuteronomists were just as bad as King Noah and his priests. King Noah and his priests didn't even practice what they said they were preaching. Others were very concerned with keeping the Law of Moses. But we see a trend both among Jews and Nephites, that Abinadi sums up beautifully in Mosiah 13:
29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.
32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
33 For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
Reading the Old Testament, I'm not sure I can see clearly that "all the prophets" have spoken concerning the Messiah. Abinadi, who didn't have the Old Testament but rather the brass plates, had a different impression. It seems that those who were outspoken about the coming of Christ often risked their lives. It also seems that their message had to be subtle or hidden in symbolism to "survive" later redaction.

The Holy Order all the way back to Adam, part 3

In the first 2 posts in this series, we've looked at points 1-4 on this list:

  1. The High Priest tradition is far older than Judaism, dating all the way back to Adam.
  2. The Judaism we know today is a revised version of an older form of Judaism, formed in reaction to Christianity and also in reaction to the loss of the second temple.
  3. Hebrew culture was fragmented even by the time of Lehi, with various groups condemning other groups as apostate from the true, ancient, covenant-and-temple-based religion.
  4. The Old Testament as we know it was most likely written and edited by Jews who espoused a tradition which had long since rejected the original purpose of the Law of Moses. They intentionally left out much of the High Priestly tradition.
  5. In order to have written the Book of Mormon (which clearly outlines this older, High Priestly tradition), Joseph Smith would have needed to have organized this complex and historically plausible theology by 1829, inserted in subtly into the text, and then stayed pretty quiet about it for a few years until he received revelations outlining the modern day restoration of these ancient practices, including the priesthood, the temple, eternal families, etc.
I've asserted many times on this blog that I don't believe it is reasonable to conclude that Joseph Smith authored the Book of Mormon.  I believe this for a host of reasons, not just the ones I'll be pointing out today.

I also recognize that many critics of the Book of Mormon are convinced that Joseph Smith (and perhaps others) conspired to create the book in order to bolster his plan to found a new American religion.  I believe they haven't studied the book in enough detail to address all the tasks he would need to accomplish in order to pull this off.  This post will attempt to list some of those tasks. I will not address internal consistency, intertextual connections, or any of the cultural and archaeological evidence, which can be found on other posts.


Joseph Smith's "to do" list



  1. Accessing the sources. In order to weave this "Holy Order all the way back to Adam" theology into the Book of Mormon, Joseph would have needed access to resources. It's difficult to definitively conclude what kind of documents Joseph Smith could have had access to as he drafted the Book of Mormon. An early translation of the Book of Enoch existed in England (and maybe part of the US) by 1828/9, but there is no evidence it could be found in Palmyra, nor is there any evidence that Joseph was secretly ditching his duties as a day laborer in favor of studying at the library. Furthermore, talking to rabbis of his day would not have helped him.  Rabbis are trained in the rabbinical tradition, whose predecessor had actively suppressed the High Priest tradition thousands of years earlier.
  2. Writing in secret. There is no evidence to support the idea that he was writing early drafts of the book in secret, or that he even had easy access to paper. There is strong evidence supporting the account that the book was dictated in a single draft in about 3 months, for the most part while he sat with his head buried in a hat for hours at a time surrounded by other people. In order to weave this theology into the Book of Mormon, he would have needed to compose it in secret, then commit it to memory.
  3. Revisit the doctrine in later revelations. The text of the first draft of the Book of Mormon was finalized in 1829, but clear references to the "Holy Order" can be found in the Book of Moses, which was worked on in late 1830, revelations on the priesthood received in 1832 (see D&C 84:18-19 and D&C 107:40-41 for example), and in JST Bible passages such as this one. These passages connect to each other in big ways and in subtle ways. For example, the Book of Mormon teaches about "the first resurrection," which is also connected to baptism and sanctification -- this will be a topic of a future post.
  4. Include concepts unknown to the world at the time but later confirmed/supported by new discoveries. Joseph's theology boldly proclaims:
    • That the Bible had been corrupted around the time of Jesus. 
    • That Adam was a great high priest. 
    • That Enoch was the founder of a great city which was taken up to heaven and will play a part in the end of days.
    • That Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek was only a tiny part of a much more important story about the Priesthood. 
    • That the temple of old must be restored in order to unite the human family and teach us how to walk back to the Garden of Eden and the presence of God. 
He turns out to have been really good at this.

Here we have an additional layer of evidence supporting Joseph Smith as the prophet of the restoration. It would be a remarkable feat to develop this theology over the course of decades of study, trial and error, and feedback from scholars, but Joseph seems to have accomplished an even more impressive set of tasks in a burst from the start.

I'm going to end this post with a passage from Alma-2's sermon in Ammonihah, where he outlines the character of "the Holy Order" to which he has been called. I believe this would have been the very earliest detailing of this order in modern-day revelation. I will include this part of the sermon in full to demonstrate that all the way back in 1829, this theology appeared in a very full form. To me this is remarkable, but it took me a long time to realize just how remarkable this is.


1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—
8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.
10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.
14 Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.
15 And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.
16 Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
17 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18 But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
19 Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention. (Alma 13)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Passover in Alma 36-42 and 1 Nephi 17

This article points out that Alma's admonitions to his sons fits into a Jewish Passover Seder setting. The Passover Seder is held on the night before the 7 day Passover holiday to mark its beginning. In addition to what the article says, Bradley J. Kramer also points out that Alma even uses food imagery consistent with the Seder meal
Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors; For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted (Alma 36:25-26)
Gale Boyd notes another such setting in 1 Nephi 17. The first night of the holiday includes the recitation of the story about the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt, which of course is the centerpiece for the whole celebration. Interestingly, there are two part of this recitation: First, the story of deliverance and redemption, second a prayer that all people may be free from oppression. In 1 Nephi 17, Nephi launched into the Passover recitation, including both parts! God saves the Israelites, but is no respecter of persons.

23 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake unto them, saying: Do ye believe that our fathers, who were the children of Israel, would have been led away out of the hands of the Egyptians if they had not hearkened unto the words of the Lord?
24 Yea, do ye suppose that they would have been led out of bondage, if the Lord had not commanded Moses that he should lead them out of bondage?
25 Now ye know that the children of Israel were in bondage; and ye know that they were laden with tasks, which were grievous to be borne; wherefore, ye know that it must needs be a good thing for them, that they should be brought out of bondage.
26 Now ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground.
27 But ye know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh...
33 And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
34 Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.
35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.
36 Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.
37 And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked.
38 And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes.
The quote in 1 Nephi 17 does not necessarily mean that it was Passover at the time when Nephi was arguing with his brothers about building a ship. Even though it is formalized on the first evening of Passover, at least believing Jews today will cite the Exodus whenever encouragement is needed, whether it is Passover or not.

The Holy Order all the way back to Adam, part 2

In this multi-post series, I'm fleshing out the following ideas:

  1. The High Priest tradition is far older than Judaism, dating all the way back to Adam.
  2. The Judaism we know today is a revised version of an older form of Judaism, formed in reaction to Christianity and also in reaction to the loss of the second temple.
  3. Hebrew culture was fragmented even by the time of Lehi, with various groups condemning other groups as apostate from the true, ancient, covenant-and-temple-based religion.
  4. The Old Testament as we know it was most likely written and edited by Jews who espoused a tradition which had long since rejected the original purpose of the Law of Moses. They intentionally left out much of the High Priestly tradition.
  5. In order to have written the Book of Mormon (which clearly outlines this older, High Priestly tradition), Joseph Smith would have needed to have organized this complex and historically plausible theology by 1829, inserted in subtly into the text, and then stayed pretty quiet about it for a few years until he received revelations outlining the modern day restoration of these ancient practices, including the priesthood, the temple, eternal families, etc.
In this post, I'll focus on #2 through #4 of the points above.

Sects of Hebrew religion

It's too easy for us to assume that there was only one version of the ancient Hebrew religion, when the truth is probably closer to the wide array we see in Christianity today.

We know there were several prominent sects of the Hebrew religion by the time of Jesus. The Essenes, for example, were a prominent sect from the 2nd century before Christ until the 2nd century after Christ.  Here is how an early Christian scholar described one particular sub-sect of Essenes:

The Nasaraean—they were Jews by nationality—originally from Gileaditis, Bashanitis and the Transjordan... They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws—not this law, however, but some other. And so, they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. This was the difference between the Nasaraean and the others... (source)
I'm not claiming that this particular group were adherents to the High Priestly tradition, but it is interesting to note that they believed Moses had received a different law and that they refused to offer sacrifice. (Perhaps because they believed they temple authority had become corrupted?)

The point is that many groups existed, some of which did not recognize the second temple authority as valid.

The 'Long Exile' Tradition


In the introduction of her book, Barker asserts that some sects of Hebrews believed the temple had lost its true purpose and High Priestly authority. By end of the first temple period, when the exile began, the central purpose of the temple had been corrupted. Barker notes that for some of the Israelites, the spiritual exile from the temple's true meaning did not end even when the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland and allowed to rebuild and rededicate their temple. For the Israelites who did not recognize the authority of the temple as valid, the "exile" continued all the way to the time of Jesus.

It was this tradition (which Barker refers to as the "long exile" tradition) that awaited their Messiah, a great High Priest/prophet/king to come and restore what had been lost. Barker claims that adherents to this tradition were the prime target of early Christian missionary efforts, and that the incredibly rapid adoption of Christianity in the early days after Jesus came about in part when large groups of "long exile" Israelites living in the surrounding areas recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

Not everyone shared this worldview, though.  In fact, the political 'winners' of the day held firm to a tradition that revered the Law of Moses.

The Old Testament as a record of a different tradition


Barker says:

...the Old Testament, both text and canon, has a complex history...others who shared the Hebrew heritage did not always share the same beliefs or the same scriptures. Among these 'others' were the first Christians. The Hebrew Scriptures as we know them were preserved, edited and transmitted by the priests and scribes of the second temple, the very people whom the 'long exile' tradition had condemned as impure apostates who had altered the Scriptures. (Temple Theology, pp. 5-6)

I find this very interesting and compelling, seeing as how Lehi and his family were not Jews, but were of a different tribe (Manasseh), living as 2nd or 3rd generation refugees in Jerusalem among Jews.  It isn't hard to see that Lehi and Nephi did not consider the Jews to be righteous and on the right path.

Nephi says the following of the Jews in Jerusalem:

2 For I, Nephi, have not taught [my people] many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations. (2 Nephi 25)

He also made very specific prophecies about what would happen to the scriptures which fit right in to this picture:


26 ...for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. (1 Nephi 13)

It seems very reasonable to conclude that the "Lehite" religion described in 1 and 2 Nephi is a close descendant of one of the versions of Hebrew religion of Lehi's day, possibly one that questioned the temple authority and looked to a future Messiah to make things right.  We shouldn't be surprised that this religion seems closer to Christianity than the version of Judaism we know.

The Judaism we know today (rabbinical Judaism) developed in part as a reaction to the development of Christianity.  Thus, as early Christians pointed to ancient Hebrew scripture to support their claim of Jesus as Messiah, Judaism adjusted its canon to create a clearer distinction from the Christian position.  This topic is discussed in detail in chapter 12 of The Great High Priest by Margaret Barker ("Text and Context). She gives examples of early Christian writers pointing out how the Jews of their day had altered their canon, changing some verses and removing entire books to exclude references to Christ.

To quote Barker:

Jesus was described and remembered as a great high priest (Hebrews 4:14), the Melchizedek raised up by the power of an indesctructible life (Hebrews 7:16) who had offered the final atonement sacrifice to fulfill and supercede the temple rites (Hebrews 9:1-14). ... Paul knew where the roots of Christianity lay; he argued that Christianity looked to the faith of Abraham (and by implication Melchizedek), and so was rooted earlier than the Law given to Moses. (Temple Theology, p. 4)

There is a fascinating document found among the Dead Sea Scrolls designated 11Q13, also known as the Melchizedek document, which references Melchizedek and speaks of an atonement for "the sons of light."  It is fragmentary, but includes passages like this:

Zion is ..., those who uphold the Covenant, who turn from walking [in] the way of the people. (link to wikipedia article)

Sounds very similar to Enoch from the Book of Moses. The Book of Enoch was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggesting it was a prominent part of that community's scriptural canon approaching the time of Christ. Both of these documents became lost to the Jews who practiced rabbinical Judaism.

Barker asserts that in order to understand the mindset of the early Christians, one must look to the ancient temple tradition:

Adam was remembered as the first high priest, and Jesus was described as the new Adam. The Christians remembered and hoped for the earlier Eden -- the true temple -- and saw themselves returning to the place and the priesthood from which they had been driven.  This was their worldview. (Temple Theology, p. 4)

This worldview was not shared by the Deuteronomists, who wrote and edited the Old Testament as we have it. It's not a stretch at all to conclude that the record we have today is not the same one had back then.

The final post in this series will look at what Joseph Smith would have needed to accomplish in order to include this complex theology into his new religion, as early as 1829.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Come, Follow Me -- December 30-January 5

This is the first of many weekly posts throughout 2020 where we study the Book of Mormon as part of the Come, Follow Me curriculum. In these posts, we will link to existing blog posts covering the reading assignment. In the coming week, the reading assignment includes
  • The title page (Relevant blog post here)
  • The introduction
  • Testimonies of the three and eight witnesses (Relevant blog post here. See also Appendix C in the Come, Follow Me manual)
  • Testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith (Blog post about the translation process here)
  • Brief explanation of the Book of Mormon (More information on the various records/plates here and here)
The links given above can be used as additional material to supplement the CFM study.

An explanation of the Large and Small Plates of Nephi

Since the topic is a bit complex, I copy an explanation that I previously wrote about the Large and Small plates of Nephi and Mormon's abridgment:
At about 600 B.C. Lehi leaves Jerusalem with his family. At some point after they arrive in the promised land, Nephi is commanded to make plates. See 1 Nephi 19:1. These are the ones we refer to as the Large Plates of Nephi. Later (30 years after Lehi left Jerusalem) he is commanded to make another set of plates. See 2 Nephi 5:30-31. These are the ones we refer to as the Small Plates of Nephi.
The large plates of Nephi are passed from one Nephite king to the next.
The small plates of Nephi are passed from Nephi to his brother, Jacob. Then to Jacob's son Enos, etc as we can read in the small books of Jarom and Omni. Amaleki is the last one to engrave on the small plates of Nephi. He has no descendants and the plates are full. See Omni 1:25, 30. So he gives the small plates to King Benjamin, who already has the large plates. From then on, the small and large plates don't have separate keepers anymore but are passed on together to the next record keeper: Mosiah - Alma I - Alma II - Helaman I, etc. But the small plates are full and the large plates is where they engrave the record now.
The large plates up until King Benjamin contain a lot of secular stuff, but also spiritual it seems. The small plates are more focused on spiritual things. When the small plates are full, the large plates are now used both for governmental affairs, wars, etc. but also sermons, prophecies, etc.
Fast forward to 320 A.D. The plates are handed to Mormon. He makes a new set of plates (the plates of Mormon) where he engraves an abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi. When he is halfway through, he finds the Small Plates of Nephi. The fact that it takes him so long to realize they exist suggests there is a large amount of records, not just the plates of Nephi. Anyway, he likes what he sees and decides to include them, also because he feels prompted to do so. It seems to me that he just attaches or puts them together with his other plates where he is making an abridgement of the Large Plates of Nephi. But the Small plates of Nephi are left as is. He includes a comment about it in the Words of Mormon, see verses 3-7.
Fast forward to 1828. Joseph Smith dictates the translation of the Book of Mormon with Martin Harris primarily as scribe. He dictates the record which is Mormon's abridgement of the Large Plates of Nephi. When they get to King Benjamin, Martin Harris wants to show the written pages to his wife and relatives and loses them as we know. After several months, instead of doing that translation all over again, Joseph Smith continues to dictate from the rest of Mormon's abridgement of the Large Plates starting with what is now Mosiah Chapter 1 (at least so the evidence suggests). He dictates to the end of Moroni and then dictates 1st Nephi to Omni from the Small Plates of Nephi. They cover more or less the same time period as the part that Martin Harris lost. Oliver Cowdrey is the primary scribe in this period.
So the translated Book of Mormon we have today is obtained from
  • The Small Plates of Nephi from 1st Nephi to Omni, unabridged
  • The Plates of Mormon consisting of his inserted commentary between the small and large plates of Nephi (Words of Mormon), his abridgement of the Large Plates of Nephi from Benjamin up to his own time (Book of Mosiah - 4 Nephi) as well as his own words (Mormon 1-6) and the words of his son Moroni (Mormon 7-9 + Book of Moroni). Moroni also abridged the record of the Jaredites on those plates, which is the Book of Ether


The Holy Order all the way back to Adam, part 1

I'm diving deep into the concept of the Holy Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and it is drawing me back to the Garden of Eden. I can already tell this is going to be a multi-post series, but I'd like to outline up front the highlights of what I am studying/learning:


  1. The High Priest tradition is far older than Judaism, dating all the way back to Adam.
  2. The Judaism we know today is a revised version of an older form of Judaism, formed in reaction to Christianity and also in reaction to the loss of the temple.
  3. Hebrew culture was fragmented even by the time of Lehi, with various groups condemning other groups as apostate from the true, ancient, covenant-and-temple-based religion.
  4. The Old Testament as we know it was most likely written and edited by Jews who espoused a tradition which had long since rejected the original purpose of the Law of Moses. They intentionally left out much of the High Priestly tradition.
  5. In order to have written the Book of Mormon (which clearly outlines this older, High Priestly tradition), Joseph Smith would have needed to have organized this complex and historically plausible theology by 1829, inserted in subtly into the text, and then stayed pretty quiet about it for a few years until he received revelations outlining the modern day restoration of these ancient practices, including the priesthood, the temple, eternal families, etc.


"...not only we had a hope of his glory...but also all the holy prophets which were before us."


Writing on the small plates, Jacob laments that "whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away; but we can write a few words upon plates..." (Jacob 4:2).

Knowing he could only write a few things down, he follows up with these words:

3 Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents.
4 For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us. (Jacob 4)

A relatively unique feature of Latter-day Saint theology is that prophets long before Jesus preached of Jesus, all the way back to Adam.  We believe that Adam was baptized, preached repentance, and prophesied of Christ. (See Moses 6:48-Moses 7:1).


40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.
41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage... (D&C 107)

In the context of upstate New York circa 1820, it seems that the prevailing opinion of Adam and Eve was negative -- had they not been duped by the serpent, we'd all be in a much better place. The Book of Mormon teaches something very different:

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2)


One of the points made by Margaret Barker in Temple Theology is that "Adam was remembered as the first high priest." The context in which she makes this claim is really important. I'll get into that context in the next post, when I outline my second and third points above.

For now, I think it is important and foundational to appreciate that as early as 1829, Joseph's Smith's restored theology very clearly taught that Adam's transgression was a necessary part of the plan of salvation.




Mormon's references to Alma 5

Alma 6 is a short transitional chapter between sermons in Alma 5 and 7, where Mormon moves from quoting Alma's words on the plates of Ne...