Friday, May 29, 2020

Chiasmus in Mosiah 27

As probably the most well-known chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, Alma 36 beautifully uses ancient Hebrew poetry to relate the conversion story of Alma the Younger. This is Alma reflecting on the event many years later as he speaks to his oldest son, Helaman. Mormon apparently decided to include Alma's words directly from the plates of Nephi without abridgment. But he also made an abridged version of it in Mosiah 27 as the actual event in Alma's life was recorded on the plates.

Reading Mosiah 27, to my surprise I saw a chiastic structure here as well. I have never seen it pointed out before, but it certainly includes a lot of the elements and criteria for a chiasmus that I know of.

A: 11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood

B: 12 And so great was their astonishment, that

C: they fell to the earth,

D: and understood not the words which he spake unto them.

E: 13 Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.

F: 14 And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth;

G: therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.

G': 15 And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you? And I am sent from God.

F': 16 Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.

E': And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.

D’: 17 And now it came to pass that these were the last words which the angel spake unto Alma, and he departed.

C': 18 And now Alma and those that were with him fell again to the earth,

B': for great was their astonishment; for with their own eyes they had beheld an angel of the Lord;

A': and his voice was as thunder, which shook the earth; and they knew that there was nothing save the power of God that could shake the earth and cause it to tremble as though it would part asunder.

Could it be that Mormon knew about the chiastic structure of Alma's words to Helaman on the plates of Nephi and decided to create a chiasmus himself when abridging the record of Alma's conversion in the Book of Mosiah?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Zenos and the restoration of the Lamanites

Following up a concluding thought from this post, I'd like to try to flesh out what Samuel the Lamanite meant when he said:

11 Yea, even if they should dwindle in unbelief the Lord shall prolong their days, until the time shall come which hath been spoken of by our fathers, and also by the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again to the knowledge of the truth. (Helaman 15)

In this single verse, we find a subtle example of internal consistency regarding an ancient prophetic allegory given by Zenos, which was recorded on the brass plates and preserved for the Nephite prophets/record-keepers to study and comment on over the centuries.

Jacob 5 is a remarkable and complex chapter. I'm using this helpful diagram from the Come, Follow Me manual to help sort through the various visits and the various branches. The Lehites branch is discussed in verse 25 -- the "last" branch placed on "good ground" (promised land) which brings forth both "tame" (Nephites) and "wild" (Lamanites) fruit.

In this presentation about Jacob 5, Matthew Bowen makes the case that references to "nourish" in this chapter are a reference to temple covenants. I strongly agree, especially in light of all of the tree symbolism we've discussed on this blog recently.

To see how the restoration of the Lamanites is mentioned in this chapter, we need to turn our attention to verse 40:

40 And the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died.

This is a reference to the Lamanites' destruction of the Nephites.

At this point in the allegory, The Lord of the vineyard is ready to mete out justice for all the wild branches:

49 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Let us go to and hew down the trees of the vineyard and cast them into the fire, that they shall not cumber the ground of my vineyard, for I have done all. What could I have done more for my vineyard?
The servant convinces the Lord to "[s]pare [the vineyard] a little longer."

What follows is the last gathering of all the branches back to the "mother tree," including the "last branch" that represent the remnant of the Lamanites. This final time, all of the trees would be nourished by the labor of the servants. Notice the obvious symbolic references to the work of ministering and covenants (in bold):

61 Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit, which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all other fruit.
62 Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard.
63 Graft in the branches; begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last, and dig about the trees, both old and young, the first and the last; and the last and the first, that all may be nourished once again for the last time.

So there it is, a pretty subtle allegorical prophecy of the restoration of the Lamanites to a knowledge of the truth. Keep in mind that Helaman 15 precedes Jacob 5 in the dictation sequence by about 100 chapters.

"other prophets"

Just as Samuel said in Helaman 15:11, "other prophets" testified of these things. Lehi, Nephi, others prophesied of the restoration of the Lamanites. I'll cover this in a future post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Scattering/gathering taught through shepherd symbolism

In my recent posts, I have shown examples of tree and shepherd symbolism used together. In these symbols we find Christ, the gathering of Israel and temple covenants. I have studied and written much about tree symbolism before but not really shepherd/sheep/flock symbolism. It is well-known that Christ is the good shepherd and those who hearken to his voice are his sheep. But for some reason I have not really thought much about this as a symbol for the scattering/gathering of Israel before. Now that I study with this in mind, I see it everywhere.

The symbolism is very fitting. A shepherd cares for his flock, calls on his sheep who recognize his voice and provides them with safety and good pasture. The gathering of Israel is all about coming to Christ and entering into covenants with him. In return we get spiritual protection, rest and nourishment. One example to illustrate this is Ezekiel 34.

Ezekiel 34:11-13

11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
Another interesting one from the Book of Mormon is found in Helaman 7:18-19
18 It is because you have hardened your hearts; yea, ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd; yea, ye have provoked him to anger against you.
19 And behold, instead of gathering you, except ye will repent, behold, he shall scatter you forth that ye shall become meat for dogs and wild beasts.
Notice that verse 18 is a reference to Psalm 95.

7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,

8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.

10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:

11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
Psalm 95 uses the "enter into his rest" term that was discussed in a series of posts a while back. I didn't really notice the sheep symbolism in Psalm 95 at the time, but it is interesting to note that Nephi-2 hints to this Psalm when talking about scattering and gathering. The gathering in a shepherd/sheep setting is coming to the pasture. This is synonymous with the "rest" or promised land that the Israelites would come to after wandering around in the wilderness, and the "mountains of Israel" in the Ezekiel quote.

The temple connection of "enter into his rest" is discussed in this post. And thus we see (to borrow from Mormon) the recurring theme of the gathering of Israel as we come unto Christ through covenants, often taught through symbolism.

Monday, May 25, 2020

May 25–31. Mosiah 29–Alma 4: “They Were Steadfast and Immovable”

Here are links to additional resources for this week's Come, Follow Me lesson:

Mosiah 29: A fascinating connection to Kings in the Old Testament, A note about tracking the timeline, Transitions to first person voice, and more.

Alma 1: "Anti-Christs" in the Book of Mormon, Gideon, The Profession of Nehor, and more.

Alma 2: Cunning in the Book of Mormon.

Alma 3: The Mark of the Curse

Alma 4Pride of the eyes

A note about "Prolonging" and "Lengthening cords"

Along the same lines as my previous post here regarding swelling hearts and expanding Zion's borders, I've been studying the Hebrew root 'arak,' which refers to lengthening something.

arak: to be long --  אָרַךְ -- continue (1), delay (1), endure* (1), endures (1), lengthen (3), lengthened (1), lingered (2), live (2), long (5), long* (3), makes him slow (1), prolong (8), prolonged (4), prolongs (1), stick (1), survived* (2).

We'll look at two common uses of this root in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.

"Lengthen thy cords"

Christ quotes Isaiah's use of this root in a covenant context, prophesying of the latter-day restoration of the covenant:

2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes; (3 Nephi 22)

This wording fits in well with the idea of Zion enlarging when covenants are kept, as well and Zion as an enclosed garden.

Contrasting covenant theme related to cords

It should be noted that cords are occasionally mentioned in the context of Satan binding those who reject their covenants. (See 2 Nephi 26:22.) As is often the case, covenant symbols have positive and negative connotations.

"Prolong thy days"

In the Old Testament, this root is used in a covenant context, for example:

40 Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever. (Deuteronomy 4)
Isaiah makes use of this root to speak of the results of Christ's suffering:

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. (Isaiah 53, NRSV)
This passage is part of Abinadi's sermon to the wicked priests of King Noah, found in Mosiah 14.

Notice how Alma uses this same wording in his masterful sermon in Ammonihah, in a passage filled with other covenant symbols. He is specifically warning the wicked Nephites that their violation of their covenant is more severe (and will therefore be treated more harshly by the Lord) than the Lamanites' wickedness:

16 For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land.
17 And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers; and many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name.
18 But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord. (Alma 9)

Notice Lehi's teaching about Adam and Eve. Is it possible he is making reference to the fact that they were taught about covenants upon their expulsion from the Garden of Eden?

21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men... (2 Nephi 2)

Connections to Zenos and the restoration of the Lamanites?

Samuel uses similar language when talking about promises made to the Lamanites:

4 But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually, and this because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers. But behold, salvation hath come unto them through the preaching of the Nephites; and for this intent hath the Lord prolonged their days. ...
10 And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe in that thing which they do believe, for because of their firmness when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days, notwithstanding their iniquity—
11 Yea, even if they should dwindle in unbelief the Lord shall prolong their days, until the time shall come which hath been spoken of by our fathers, and also by the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again to the knowledge of the truth. (Helaman 15)

Notice that mention of "Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren." I have some ideas about what Samuel is referring to, which I will save for my next post.

Friday, May 22, 2020

More tree and shepherd/flock symbolism

In this post, I proposed that Nephi made a connection to his forefather Joseph's patriarchical blessing when he talked about the gathering of Israel. He makes this connection through tree and shepherd/flock symbolism and alludes to the temple. These are common symbols in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, especially related to the scattering/gathering of Israel and sometimes also the temple.

Tree symbolism has been discussed extensively on this blog. I wanted to start exploring shepherd/flock symbolism but first I wanted to look at another couple of examples where both symbols are used together.

Consider this post about Alma 5, where I pointed out parallelism involving these two symbols. The sermon also has an overarching temple theme. For instance, according to this article:
Alma compared having God’s image engraved upon oneself to having “a pure heart and clean hands” (Alma 5:19)—a phrase that comes from a temple entry psalm (Psalm 24:4). This psalm was meant to assess a person’s worthiness to pass through the gates of the temple and thereby enter into the presence of God. Thus, Alma taught that the righteous who enter into God’s presence will have God’s image engraved upon their countenance. In other words, they “shall be like him” (1 John 3:2; Moroni 7:48)
This article gives further insight into the temple worship and covenant context of Alma 5. In other words, the covenant making and gathering that the temple provides is easily associated with partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, being grafted into the olive tree representing the House of Israel or gathering as a flock whose shepherd is Christ. On the other hand, as Alma also discusses in this chapter, being unclean and unrepentant is associated with being "hewn down and cast into the fire" (Alma 5:35) or having the devil as shepherd (Alma 5:39).

I noticed the same two symbols together in Habakkuk 3:17

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Here the symbolism is used with a negative connotation. The prophet depicts the effect of a hostile invasion, i.e. the scattering of Israel. For the record, these prophecies are probably from the late 7th century BC, after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, right before the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet, he says, he will rejoice in the Lord. He knows that Israel will be gathered again and trusts in the salvation through God.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

"Claim[ing] the rights of mercy"

Stisa's recent post outlines two possible readings for Mosiah 18:1-2.  Incidentally, in addition to providing an interesting example of internal consistency, this might also be another example of Abinadi acting as a doctrinal mentor to Alma-1.

As it relates to the crux of his post -- whether the ascension of Christ is a necessary component for our salvation -- I came across a few verses that seem to speak directly to this point.

27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?
28 For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens. (Moroni 7)

Mormon's words here seen to answer the question pretty directly.  Christ's ascension to heaven allows Him to "dwell eternally" and "advocate the cause of the children of men." The act of His atoning sacrifice allows Him to "sit down on the right hand of God" and "claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men."

That is profound and beautiful doctrine!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Nephi's reference to Joseph's patriarchical blessing

In Genesis 49, we read about Jacob/Israel's patriarchical blessing to his sons, although it seems we get a very abbreviated version. The blessing to Joseph has special meaning to Latter-Day Saints, many of whom identify as the seed of Joseph at least in a spiritual sense. This is also the case for the Book of Mormon people who were descendents of Joseph. Part of the blessing reads
22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
No, the smiley in the end is not something I made, it's a direct copy from the KJV.

The wording in verse 24 is difficult, even in the original Hebrew. Several Bible commentaries suggest that the text is slightly corrupt. There is clearly a Messianic prophecy here, but there has probably been an alteration at some point. Perhaps some additional "plain and precious" teachings where here originally that can be linked to what we learn in the Book of Mormon about the great and abominable church and the Old Testament views on the Messiah?

Neither smileys nor scriptural alterations were the point of this post, though. The point is to evaluate an interesting connection to 1 Nephi 15. In this chapter, Nephi's brothers ask him what Lehi meant when he spoke about an olive tree in 1 Nephi 10. Nephi explains
12 Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?
The Nephites seem very concious about their heritage and esteem their forefather, Joseph, highly. For instance, we know that prophecies of Joseph that are not found in the Old Testament were found on the brass plates. We know from 2 Nephi 3 that Joseph prophesied about "the fruit of his loins". I'm sure the promise that he would be a "fruitful bough" also was found on the brass plates, perhaps even an extended version of it compared to the one in Genesis.

Nephi knew that he and his posterity were among the fruit of Joseph's loins and that they were a fruitful bough, broken off from the House of Israel. In verse 15, Nephi seems to make a reference to Joseph's patriarchical blessing.

15 And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God?
16 Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive tree, into the true olive tree.
There are several interesting takeaways from this. When talking about a remnant of the House of Israel in the latter days and making a connection to Genesis 49:22-24, Nephi seems to be interpreting Joseph's patriarchical blessing through the lens of the latter-day gathering of Israel. This is not the obvious reading in Genesis, but again, perhaps Nephi had more about this on the brass plates. As Latter-Day Saints, we know that the fruit of Joseph's loins and the Book of Mormon have a special role in this gathering.

Nephi refers to Joseph's patriarchical blessing by repeating three symbols that are found all over the Book of Mormon.
  1. The stone/rock. I have posted about this before here, here, here and here. This is a frequent Messianic symbol both in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. 
  2. Shepherd/fold. This is a topic I have not yet explored or posted about much. But that's about to change! We know Christ used this symbolism a lot and that he is the good shepherd.
  3. Tree and branch. We have discussed tree symbolism extensively. (see here, here and here for some examples even though there is more). In the first linked post I speculate about a connection between Joseph's bough and Zenos' olive tree. Nephi's allusion to Genesis 49 and talk about the olive tree strengthens this connection. This symbol carries several meanings. The third link explains how tree symbolism is linked to deity in different ways. It is also a common representation of the House of Israel.
Vine and olive trees seem to be used interchangeably. Nephi talks about an olive tree, then "the true vine". In Zenos' allegory, the olive tree was planted in a vineyard. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus told his disciples that he is the true vine. Then he gave them the fruit of the vine to drink to remember his atoning blood. Then he went to Gethsemane, translated to "olive press", to atone for our sins. A Jewish rabbi comments on 1 Nephi 15:15-16
Notice how Nephi makes mention of these two kinds: the olives and the vines. The olive is broken because of its stiffneckedness in not following the ways of G-d and in its arrogance. And the vine has its grapes trampled on because it has no strength in the word of G-d and so it offers its grapes to idol worship.
However Nephi says that they become the true olive and the true vine. How would that have been interpreted? As seen from above this was imagery that referred to the olive that was used to produce oil for the Menorah and to the vine that was used to produce wine for the libation. In other words these people who were once cut off would then eventually be consecrated unto the holiest service they could possibly have in the Temple of G-d.
For clarification, the "Menorah" is the seven-lamp ancient Hebrew lampstand used in the temple.

At this point my post is a bit messy, but here is the main message:
The gathering of Israel happens when we come unto Christ through temple covenants.
Let's recap

The gathering of Israel -- Nephi talks to his brothers about the latter-day gathering and uses Zenos' olive tree imagery. He also refers to Joseph's patriarchical blessing, knowing that his seed would have an instrumental role in this gathering
Come unto Christ -- Nephi refers to Joseph's patriarchical blessing through three symbols of Christ. Christ is the rock, Christ is the shepherd and Christ is the true vine.
Temple covenants -- When using tree symbolism, Nephi brings up both the olive tree and the vine. Both represent temple service as the olive oil and wine were part of the ancient temple.

Monday, May 18, 2020

What the Book of Mormon teaches about the relationship between the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (and each of us), part 2

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7)
This is a continuation of a previous post about the relationship between the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Part 1 can be found here.

We left off with the concept of unity. In this post, we'll look more specifically at how covenants play a role in uniting us to God and allowing our will to be swallowed up in His will, just as Jesus did. Those covenants are brought about by divinely authorized messengers, and it seems pretty clear to me now that no discussion of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is complete without recognizing how much they want us to be included in their unity. We'll circle around to that at the end of this post.

What does it mean to be united?

Shared Joy

One important aspect of unity that I took away from this study is that those who are united rejoice together.  For example, notice how the passages below demonstrate a unity of joy between Jesus those who saw Him as they saw Him pray unto the Father for them:

16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
18 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. (3 Nephi 17)

30 And now, behold, my joy is great, even unto fulness, because of you, and also this generation; yea, and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation; for none of them are lost. (3 Nephi 27)


This, of course, is a perfect lead-in to another critical aspect of unity -- covenants.  There are so many references by Christ to the work of fulfilling the covenant of the Father to the House of Israel that I can't list them all, but I'll give one example to show how connected this is to the overall theme, which is most heavily focused in 3 Nephi 21-27:

26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.
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. (3 Nephi 21)

The work of gathering Israel is intimately intertwined with covenants and unity. This thought took me back to the very first passage I studied -- 1 Nephi 1.  In this chapter, we read of a vision Lehi had.  Notice the description of what he saw:

8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.
10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.
11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. (1 Nephi 1)

There is an important pattern outlined right here in these four verses:

  • God the Father is exalted.
  • Jesus Christ the Son came to earth to show us how to return to God the Father.
  • The path back to God involves following those who follow Him. These "others" go forth upon the face of the earth and invite others to receive the word.
The divinely authorized messengers "descend" and "go forth upon the face of the earth" so that they can spread the word -- the glad tidings -- causing those who receive the word to "gather" and "ascend."  That's pretty powerful.

One last note. Consider the introductory words of Mormon found in Moroni 7. I believe Mormon was preparing them to receive covenants:

2 And now I, Mormon, speak unto you, my beloved brethren; and it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy will, because of the gift of his calling unto me, that I am permitted to speak unto you at this time.

3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. (Moroni 7)

I've written about similar themes here.

That's probably as succinct a summary as I can give of this divine concept of unity. I don't know that I necessarily learned any new information, but I am definitely able to see the role covenants play in uniting us with God increasingly clearly.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Redemption through ascension

I just liked the sound of that title, but I'm going to preface this by saying my ideas are highly speculative. I just found Mosiah 18:1-2 interesting
1 And now, it came to pass that Alma, who had fled from the servants of king Noah, repented of his sins and iniquities, and went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi—
2 Yea, concerning that which was to come, and also concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Even though it's not what I had in mind with this post, this is another example of internal consistency. Alma sums up the teachings of Abinadi. Verse 2 is a repetition of Abinadi's main themes. One could argue that these are pretty common all throughout the Book of Mormon. But "redemption of the people" is an Abinadi trademark. Another interesting one is "ascension into heaven". This is a more peculiar point to bring up but it is indeed a reference to Abinadi's teachings.
8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice. (Mosiah 15)
When I read the first quote in Mosiah 18:1-2 recently, I read it as follows: "began to teach the words of Abinadi- yea, concerning:
  • that which was to come
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through:
    • the power
    • sufferings and
    • death of Christ,
    • his resurrection and
    • ascension into heaven"
Does it really say that redemption comes through his ascension into heaven? At least, that is one way of reading it. Is there any redemptive power in the ascension? It's not standard Church teaching, so I'm a bit hesitant to make the claim, even though it does appear to be there in Mosiah 18:2 and perhaps also in the verse it is referring to, Mosiah 15:9.

The alternative reading is "began to teach the words of Abinadi-, yea, concerning:
  • that which was to come
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ
  • his resurrection and ascension into heaven"
Then we avoid the weird notion of Christ redeeming us through his ascension. But to be honest, I think the first reading makes more sense linguistically. In any case, I find the possibility intriguing. Even if we read it the other way, why did Alma teach the people of Christ's ascension? My speculative thoughts are related to the observation that the atonement of Christ is frequently described as preparing the way. Christ broke the bands of death by resurrecting. This "way" was unavailable to man, but has become available because Christ walked it and thereby prepared it for us. Similarly, perhaps ascending to the Celestial Kingdom after the resurrection is also a "way" that had to be prepared and was prepared by Christ through His ascension? Or perhaps it was a necessary completory step of the mission of He who had "descended below all things"(D&C 88:6)

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