Friday, January 31, 2020

Building upon the rock -- Part 1

In yesterday's post, I argued that the rock symbolism in the Book of Mormon originates from the Old Testament and the culture that Lehi and Nephi brought with them. We looked at the rock in connection to salvation and living water. Another use of the rock symbolism in the Book of Mormon is the idea of a foundation on which to build. Many would say that this originates from the New Testament. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares those who listen and obey with a man who built his house upon a rock. But we find this in the Book of Mormon before Christ and especially during Christ's visit to the Nephites (which I will get back to in part 2).

There is, however, one verse in the Old Testament that caught my attention. Isaiah 28:16
Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

In 2 Nephi 26 and 27, Nephi is quoting and paraphrasing extensively from Isaiah 29 but also some from Isaiah 28. In 2 Nephi 28, Nephi is obviously still in Isaiah 28-29 mode as shown in the list below.
  • 2 Nephi 28:9 - Paraphrasing Isaiah 29:15
  • 2 Nephi 28:14 - Paraphrasing Isaiah 29:13
  • 2 Nephi 28:16 - Paraphrasing Isaiah 29:21
  • 2 Nephi 28:30 - Paraphrasing Isaiah 28:10
Then we read in 2 Nephi 28:28

And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
The connection to Isaiah 28:16 is a bit vague since the wording is different. But since there are so many other connections to Isaiah 28-29 in this chapter, I'm pretty sure that Nephi has Isaiah 28:16 in mind when he talks about building upon the rock. At the same time Nephi includes the idea of a sandy foundation as opposed to building on the rock, an idea we later find in the Sermon on the Mount. Notice also how "the two ways" is showing up here too.

Then we read in Jacob 4:15-16
15 And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.
16 But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.
The question is, which scriptural passage is Jacob referring to? Isaiah 28:16 is definitely a candidate. Another one is Psalms 118:22
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
By mentioning "the builders" this idea of building on a rock also in the Old Testament somehow comes together. Still, I get the impression that Nephi and Jacob got some more information from the brass plates than we get from the Old Testament. The next time the Book of Mormon advises us to build on the rock is a well-known and beautiful verse in Helaman 12:5
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
More building on the rock in 3 Nephi to come in Part 2.

1 Nephi 17 and the Creation-Covenant Connection

A few weeks ago, I posted about the creation-covenant connection. The quick summary is that the creation was brought about to allow us to participate in the Everlasting Covenant (according to Margaret Barker, "creation" and "covenant" share a primitive Hebrew root and relate to an idea of putting things together.)

I came across this passage in 1 Nephi 17 and thought about the creation-covenant connection. I've highlighted the phrases related to the righteous and the wicked.  Notice that the righteous are blessed in ways directly related to the land, and the wicked are cursed in ways directly related to the land.

32 And after they had crossed the river Jordan he did make them mighty unto the driving out of the children of the land, yea, unto the scattering them to destruction.
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.
39 He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool.
40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt. (1 Nephi 17)

Here is a summary for the righteous:

  • “Make them mighty”
  • Righteous
  • Favored of God
  • “Land of Promise”
  • “Bless [the land] unto their obtaining power over it”
  • “Raiseth up and righteous nation”
  • “...he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands”
  • “He loveth those who will have him to be their God”
  • “He remembered the covenants which he hath made.”

Here is a summary for the wicked:

  • “Scatter to destruction”
  • “Ripe in iniquity”
  • “Fulness of the wrath of God”
  • “Curse the land against them”
  • “Destroyeth the nations of the wicked”
  • “...the wicked he destroyeth and curseth the land unto them for their sakes”

In addition to representing yet another manifestation of the Two Ways concept, this passage reinforces a few things to me:

  1. The "Land of Promise" is included as a blessing reserved for the righteous, covenant-keeping people of God.
  2. This pattern of blessing and cursing is linked directly to the purposes of the creation (see verses 39-40 especially).
  3. It is increasingly clear to me that the "Land of Promise" concept is both a literal place to which the Nephites were led and a metaphor for the blessings that come from keeping the covenant.
  4. Since the purpose of the creation is to bring about our opportunity to participate in the Everlasting Covenant, it is no wonder that rejecting the covenant would bring a creation-related curse upon us.
  5. This is a major theme of the Book of Mormon, and can help us learn many things about our covenants if we think about this connection.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Book of Mormon rocks

Sorry, I couldn't resist the temptation to use a word-play to create a click-bait title, it should read "the rocks in the Book of Mormon". For context, let me comment briefly on the use of rocks in the Bible. About 50% of the use is metaphorical and points to the Savior. "Rock of my salvation" is found multiple times in the book of Psalms for instance. Moses smote the rock and water came out. Christ is the source of living water and Paul is saying that the rock was Christ. The symbolism is fitting when we think about the steadfastness of the solid rock.

Even though they didn't have the New Testament story of Jesus at the well or Paul's letters, Lehi, Nephi and their righteous descendants definitely were familiar with this symbolism. One example is found in 2 Nephi 25:20
And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Nephi uses the story of Moses smiting a rock as an example when he testifies of the salvation through Christ. As a side note, I also noticed the repetitive resumption in this verse and marked it in yellow.

We also see the "my rock and my salvation" and "the rock of my salvation" language from the Old Testament echoed in the Book of Mormon.

Psalm 95:1
O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
2 Nephi 4:30
Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
No wonder we refer to 2 Nephi 4 as Nephi's psalm. There are multiple other examples both from the Bible and the Book of Mormon and I will not list them all. But I actually started looking into this when I read 1 Nephi 13:36
And in them [the Nephite records] shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.
I was a bit puzzled by the way it was phrased. It seems that the verse is saying that "my rock and my salvation" shall be written in the records. This use of the expression would deviate a bit from the norm. Considering the fact that the punctuation was not part of the original text and placed there by the printer, E. B. Grandin, perhaps it would be better to drop the comma after Lamb. "saith the Lamb and my rock and my salvation", changes the meaning and is perhaps a better one, in my opinion, more in line with the other similar expressions in the scriptures.

We have seen before that Jacob seems particularly fond of the Book of Psalms and he uses this expression both in 2 Nephi 9:45
O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation.
and in Jacob 7:25
Wherefore, the people of Nephi did fortify against them with their arms, and with all their might, trusting in the God and rock of their salvation;
I will create another post tomorrow looking further into the use of rocks as symbol in the Book of Mormon.

Ammon and Alma-2 reference Lehi

Ammon's grandfather, King Benjamin, was given the Small Plates of Nephi. It is possible, perhaps even very likely that Ammon had the account of Lehi's dream and prophecies read to him as a young boy.

So it shouldn't surprise us when we find subtle references to Lehi's words in the words of Ammon.

Here is Ammon praising God after experiencing tremendous success in his missionary efforts:

36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land. (Alma 26)

Compare this to Lehi's words:

32 And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads. (1 Nephi 8)

14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer. (1 Nephi 10)

Alma-2 also uses these words:

23 And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard. (Alma 13)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Gather in one all things in Christ

The heading is from Ephesians 1:10
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him
I wrote yesterday that there was a gathering of scriptures along with the gathering of Israel. But there is a lot more to be gathered. We live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, which means that there is a gathering of "all things in Christ". 

I have reflected on something my mission president said. He had studied a great deal of Hebrew and explained how the Hebrew word for father, 'aba', entails the plan of salvation. As some readers may know, the Hebrew language does not have separate numbers. Rather, they use the letters so that a=1, b=2, etc. In this way, there is a connection between words and numbers in Hebrew. Jews find meaning in this. But in the case of ABA/1-2-1, the meaning is perhaps more clear for Latter-Day Saints than anyone. The plan of salvation starts with one big family in a premortal existence. Then we enter into a world of opposites, the world of 2's. Light-darkness, good-evil, body-spirit, health-sickness, etc. Our goal is to return to the oneness, a unity with the Father. The pattern is 1-2-1.

We see this pattern a lot: The separation (death) and reunification of body and spirit (resurrection). The separation (sin) and the reunification of man and God (forgiveness). One represented by the tree of knowledge, the other by the tree of life. The scattering and gathering of Israel follows this pattern too and the tree symbolism is often used here as well. 

God himself lives in a perfect unity in the Godhead. He wants us to become like Him. That is why the end goal is always to gather and unite, so we see this recurring pattern. There are numerous examples in the scriptures, I will just give an example from Christ's visit to the Nephites. One of the first things he tells them is
And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been (1 Nephi 11:28)
One of his purposes when visiting the Nephites is ending the division and creating unity. In 3 Nephi 28:10, Jesus explains to his disciples that this unity characterizes relationships in the kingdom of God
And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one
After Christ's visit, his purpose has been achieved in that there is a gathering of Nephites and Lamanites into one people.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4 Nephi 1:17)
This serves as a type of the gathering of Israel where different peoples and a former split Israelite nation will one day become one people or "one fold" with "one shepherd". As mentioned before, there is a physical and a spiritual gathering. In other words, physically gathering in one place is not enough. To gather "all things in Christ" also involves priesthood keys, knowledge, doctrine, covenants, etc. as well as each individual in that gathered group coming unto Christ and offering their whole souls unto Him (Omni 1:26). 

The purpose and goal of gathering on earth is to prepare us to become "heirs to the kingdom of God" where there is perfect unity.

The Holy Ghost as the Teacher of Righteousness

I concluded the last post with an intriguing idea -- perhaps the Holy Ghost is the "Teacher of Righteousness" revered by the Essenes and other ancient religious groups.  This idea is appealing for the simple reason that it fits in with some scriptures very nicely.

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11, NIV)

Is this what Enoch and his people were able to achieve when they were "of one heart and one mind"?

I have to say, when it comes to identifying the Teacher of Righteousness, I think taking an "all of the above" approach is the better strategy. Divine messengers, whether they are angels, mortals, or members of the Godhead, should present a consistent message. The Lord outlines a standard in D&C 50 that reinforces this point:

17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
20 If it be some other way it is not of God.
21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. (D&C 50)

This leads us to the next question: What does it mean to be "ordained of [God] and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter"?

President Eyring gave a talk titled "The Comforter," in which he said:

You are a covenant member of the Church of Jesus Christ. A great change began in your heart when you came into the Church. You made a covenant, and you received a promise that began changing your very nature.

Saving ordinances are sacred acts performed by priesthood authority by which we enter into solemn covenants with God. If you stop to think about it, it isn't hard to see the symbolic "change in nature" embedded in these ordinances.

Adam's baptism was particularly unique:

64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. (Moses 6)
Adam became "born of the Spirit" and entered into the order of Jesus Christ, which transcends time.

We learn more about this order in Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

32 And the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church.
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. (D&C 84)

This is the essence of the gathering of Israel. It is all about those who have received the word and had a change in their nature through covenants reaching out to others and inviting them on to the Way of Eternal Life.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Gathering of Israel and gathering of scriptures

In his vision, Nephi gets to see the «marvellous work and wonder» in the latter days, which is the «fulness of the Gentiles». This is when «the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left» (Isaiah 11:11).

We read that «the first (Jews) shall be the last and the last (Gentiles) shall be the first». Along with the gathering of Israel, is a gathering of scriptures. First the Bible comes from «the mouth of a Jew» to the Gentiles and last the Book of Mormon comes through the Gentiles to the Jews. This is what Nephi gets to see. I find certain poetic beauty in all of this and I think Nephi does too. Just consider this chiasmus in 1 Nephi 13:39-42:

A unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren,
  B and also the Jews
    C who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true. And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles,
      D shall establish the truth of the first,
        E which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb,
          F and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people,
            G that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world;
              H and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
              H' And they must come according to the words which shall be established
            G' by the mouth of the Lamb;
          F' and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed,
        E' as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb;
      D' wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
    C' And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations,
  B' both unto the Jews
A' and also unto the Gentiles

The center of the chiasmus is coming to Christ, which is the purpose of gathering. Through the gathering, when two people (Jews and Gentiles) become one, then two sets of scripture (the Bible and the Book of Mormon) do too, "for there is one God and one shepherd over all the earth".

We find this same idea of gathering of scriptures along with gathering of Israel in Ezekiel 37:15-22
15 The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all
and 2 Nephi 3:12-13
Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord. And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.

Who was the Teacher of Righteousness?

The Essene sect kept a lot of documents, many of which talk about a mysterious figure referred to as the "Teacher of Righteousness."  As I studied about this figure, I came across a few interesting quotes.

I wrote about the Essenes in this post, and every time I think about Enoch, I can't help but think about the Essenes, who are described as "Enochian" by some scholars.  I see the existence of the Essenes as partial validation of the existence of the Nephites.  I believe both groups exiled themselves from Jerusalem within a few hundred years of each other, and maintained a relatively similar theology, informed by the High Priestly tradition of the first temple.

One of the big questions debated by scholars is this: who was the Teacher of Righteousness?

Many theories have been put forth -- an unnamed high priest at the Temple in Jerusalem between 159 and 152 BC, the entire lineage of Zadokite High Priests, and Jesus all make the list of potential candidates, among many others. One comment I read about this question put it this way:

...some of the other Qumran scrolls treat [the Teacher of Righteousness] as a figure from their past, and others treat as a figure in their present, and others still as a figure of the future. (source)

I enjoyed the past/present/future theme here.

The Jewish Virtual Library has an article about the Teacher of Righteousness (Heb. מוֹרֶה צֶדֶק moreh ẓedek). Some scholars suggest this name derives as a wordplay from a similar phrase in Hosea 10:12, "it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and cause righteousness to rain [yoreh ẓedek] upon you." In Joel 2:23, there is another wordplay using the Hebrew root מוֹרֶה "mowreh" which can mean both "rain" or "teacher."  Thus, the verse is typically translated like this:

Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. (Joel 2)

The phrase "former rain moderately" comes from  the Hebrew "ham-mō-w-reh liṣ-ḏā-qāh" which is very similar to "teacher of righteousness" (moreh zedek).

Rain = Righteous Teaching?

This connection between an Enochian group, the Teacher of Righteousness, and the symbol of rain takes on deeper meaning in light of this verse from the Book of Moses:

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? (Moses 7)

(What a "lucky guess" for Joseph Smith to connect Enoch with the concept of "preaching righteousness" in verse 19 and being "high and lifted up" in the "bosom of the father," and less than 10 verses later have Enoch see a vision of the tears of the God of heaven falling as rain!)

God's response to Enoch's question comes a few verses later:

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood; (Moses 7)

The symbolism and double-meaning here is poignant:  As the wicked people reject the "teacher of righteousness" they bring about a flood caused by overwhelming rain.  There is also an added layer of depth (pun intended) when you consider the notion that Noah's Ark is a symbol of the temple. (See this page for more details.) The covenant is the means of salvation from otherwise certain spiritual destruction.

What does this have to do with being "carried away by the Spirit"?

If you recall, I started this journey of learning with the goal of connecting the concept of Zion with the concept of being "carried away by the spirit."  We're almost there.  Let's take a look at what we've learned so far, and then I'll close this post with an intriguing detail that ties everything together nicely (I hope).

1) We began with the idea that the "exceedingly high mountain" to which Nephi was "caught away in the spirit of the Lord" is the same "high and lifted up" place to which the followers of Enoch were "caught up by the powers of heaven," also known as Zion. The central purpose of mortality is to learn how to reverse the effects of the fall of Adam by ascending to the mountain of the Lord's house.

2) The name Enoch means "initiated one." The verb used to describe the dedication of Solomon's temple is the same root in Enoch's name.

3) Enoch, the righteous leader of this group of people, "preach[ed] righteousness" and led a people who were unified in charity and obedience to God's commandments. There they were "blessed upon the mountains and upon the high places, and did flourish."

4) There is a direct connection between making covenants and teaching others about the importance of these covenants.  This is a pattern we see throughout the scriptures. Divine messengers descend to fallen man and publish glad tidings of good, teach repentance, and perform ordinances to create covenants. See an angel, be an angel.  We looked at Alma-2 as an archetypal example of one who was "snatched" from the depths of hell (one type of water portrayed in Lehi's dream) and brought to feel the love of God (the other type of water in Lehi's dream). In this sense, every missionary can be a Teacher of Righteousness.

5) There is a connection between receiving hidden knowledge and zealously engaging in the work of salvation. We looked at the Three Nephites as an example of this.

6) The righteous look to a "Teacher of Righteousness" to lead them along the right path.  There can be many correct answers to the question "Who is the Teacher of Righteousness?"

The Essenes and others considered the Holy Spirit to be the Teacher of Righteousness

From Wikipedia:
The Essenes, the Gnostics and early Christians taught that the Teacher of Righteousness was the indwelling Holy Spirit who teaches all things to those who have been anointed from above. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and Righteousness. Salvation comes only to those who have been anointed from above then they become Teachers of Righteousness.

We'll explore this further in the next post.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The tribe of Ephraim

We know from the scriptures that Gentiles who enter into covenants are numbered among the house of Israel. What I hadn't really noticed before is what we read in 1 Nephi 14:1-2
1 And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks
2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.
Here it is specified that the Gentiles shall not only be numbered among the house of Israel, but among the seed of Lehi (who was of the house of Israel). We learn from Alma 10:3 that Lehi was from the tribe of Manasseh. So what is all this talk about Ephraim? In a discourse delivered in Logan, Utah 6 May 1882, Apostle Erastus Snow said
The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the First Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually; he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim
There is some uncertainty about it, but matrilinearity (the practice of tracing Israelite descent through the maternal line) may have been practiced at Lehi's time. In that case, Lehi's seed became Ephraim when his sons married Ishmael's daughters. We also know that Nephi had sisters, who may have married grandchildren of Ishmael. (1 Nephi 7:6 shows that Ishmael already had married sons when they left Jerusalem)
the two sons of Ishmael and their families
In any case, there is a mix of Ephraim and Manasseh in the Nephite and Lamanite peoples, which explains the heavy emphasis on Joseph in the Book of Mormon, who was the father of both. People from Gentile nations living today to witness the "fulness of the Gentiles" unfold, who enter into the covenants offered by the restored church, are often told in their patriarchical blessings that they are numbered among Ephraim, which is Lehi's seed. Just as we know Ephraim was told in his patriarchical blessing that the fulness of the Gentiles in these latter days would come through his seed.

The Worldview of the Essenes at Qumran

In studying up on the Teacher of Righteousness, I came across a few interesting quotes that reminded me of the Nephites.  For example, here is a description of the worldview of the Essenes from the Jewish Virtual Library:

The author of these hymns describes humanity (including himself) as "a structure of dust shaped with water, his base is the guilt of sin, vile unseemliness, source of impurity, over which a spirit of degeneracy rules"; but God has chosen him, rescued his soul from the grave, purged his spirit from a great transgression, and granted him mercy that he might "take his place with the host of the holy ones" (the angels), given him a superior wisdom, and revealed to him "deep mysterious things." The basic feeling is one of the insignificance and lowliness of humanity, of its dependence on the loving-kindness of God, without which "the way of humanity is not established." (source)

Compare this with Alma-2's description of his conversion:

28 Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.
29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more. (Mosiah 27)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Come, Follow Me -- January 27 - February 2. 1 Nephi 16-22: "I will prepare the way before you"

This week's CFM study will complete 1 Nephi. Below you will find links to all Book of Mormon blog posts related to each chapter in the reading assignment.

1 Nephi 16: Many posts linked to this chapter, including several posts on the Liahona, the strife between Laman and Lemuel and Nephi, and evidence of authenticity

1 Nephi 17: Several posts linked to the symbolism of the wilderness and the way and also Nephi giving the Passover recitation to his brothers.

1 Nephi 18: More parallels to our lives from Lehi's Journey and several examples of internal consistency in the Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 19: Lots of posts on Zenos, some on plates/records/scriptures, and more

1 Nephi 20&21: No posts yet on the chapters that quote Isaiah

1 Nephi 22: The gathering of Israel and connections to the Jewish Feast of Trumpets, names of the Devil and Christ.

Here is the link to the CFM study manual

The scattering and gathering of Israel in the Book of Mormon

I have realized that the scattering and especially the gathering of Israel is a very important theme in the Book of Mormon. In fact the title page states that in addition to bringing people to Christ, the purpose of the Book of Mormon is "to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever". This is a recurrent theme in Nephi's vision, in 1 Nephi 20-22, in large parts of 2 Nephi including the Isaiah quotes, in Jacob 5, in 3 Nephi 16 and 20-22, and numerous other chapters or smaller passages.

I have posted about it a while back and made a summary here of common specifics in these prophecies. Overall, I like to structure this topic as shown below, where both the scattering and the gathering have a physical and a spiritual aspect.

·       Northern tribes (Israel/Ephraim) conquered by Assyria
·       Southern tribes (Juda) conquered by Babylon and later by the Romans
·       Various branches of the House of Israel emigrated, like Lehi’s family to America

·       Israel of old rejecting the covenant and worshipping idols
·       The apostasy from the church established by Christ and subsequent loss of priesthood authority
·       The state of Israel established in 1947 (Juda)
·       A future gathering in Jackson county (Ephraim)
·       Gathering in “stakes of Zion”
·       The restoration of the gospel and priesthood keys. “The new and everlasting covenant”. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a sign
·       Conversion of Gentiles adopted into the House of Israel
·       A future conversion of many Jews

Some scriptures in the Book of Mormon that I think support this view:

1 Nephi 22

3 Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations
5 …shall hereafter be scattered and be confounded, because of the Holy One of Israel; for against him will they harden their hearts; wherefore, they shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men.
12 Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.

3 Nephi 21
27 Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name.
28 Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance.

I notice in particular how the two verses in 3 Nephi each states two ways in which the "work shall commence", one spiritual and one temporal.

I'm posting this now because it is a topic that has been on my mind and something that I am reminded of again having just read Nephi's vision. I will probably post more on this in coming days.

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