Thursday, December 31, 2020

More references to the creation account -- The parting of the Red Sea

I have come to realize that the creation account was very important to ancient Israelites, including the Nephites. It only covers the first two chapters of Genesis, but it is often referred to, directly or indirectly, both in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon. A few examples from the Book of Mormon are given here, here and here. As far as I understand, the reason for the frequent references to the creation is that it represented the ultimate demonstration of God's power. He spoke and the world was created. Can there be any greater power? This means that he can control all the elements, because they are all His creation. This is often used as argument that nothing is impossible to God, as we will see soon.

I was thinking about the parting of the Red Sea and how it resembles the division of water on the second and third days of the creation account. In Genesis 1:6-9, we read:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

In Exodus 14:21, we read about the parting of the Red Sea.

21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

In both cases the waters are divided and there is a separation of water and dry land. I don't think that's a coincidence. The God of Israel showed his power when he repeated some of the work of creation in front of the eyes of the Israelites. 

In recent posts, I have written about the word and its power to bring the invisible into the visible. We don't read about the word taking an active role in our version of Exodus like it does in the creation. But it seems like this is an element that has been part of Israelite tradition, nonetheless, (see this blog post). Also, in Moses 1:25, we read

Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.

At the parting of the Red Sea, God is lending his power and word to Moses, so he can speak and use his staff to divide the waters.

With this background, it is interesting to note that the parting of the Red Sea is referenced three times in the Book of Mormon. Each time it is used to argue that God has the power to accomplish whatever is necessary.

Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. (1 Nephi 4:2)

We see the creation elements repeated: The power, the word/speaking, the division between water and dry land. Why does Nephi mention this? To argue that the Lord has power to deliver them from Laban and help them obtain the brass plates. In 1 Nephi 17, we see the same elements.

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.
28 And ye also know that they were fed with manna in the wilderness.
29 Yea, and ye also know that Moses, by his word according to the power of God which was in him, smote the rock, and there came forth water, that the children of Israel might quench their thirst. (1 Nephi 17)

Here, another miracle involving water in the Exodus is added too. Again, this is used as to argue that God has power to do anything, in this case instructing Nephi to build a ship. Still in chapter 17:

51 And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?

Many centuries later, there was another Nephi who spoke to the wicked inhabitants of Zarahemla.

11 Therefore he was constrained to speak more unto them saying: Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up?
12 And now behold, if God gave unto this man such power, then why should ye dispute among yourselves, and say that he hath given unto me no power whereby I may know concerning the judgments that shall come upon you except ye repent?
13 But, behold, ye not only deny my words, but ye also deny all the words which have been spoken by our fathers, and also the words which were spoken by this man, Moses, who had such great power given unto him, yea, the words which he hath spoken concerning the coming of the Messiah. (Helaman 8)

The same elements are repeated again and used to argue that God can give Nephi power to know of the judgments that shall come upon them. 

There seems to be a tradition among both ancient Israelites and Nephites, that God's power is demonstrated in the creation and is connected to "the word". When the Red Sea was parted, it was a redemonstration of those powers, but it also conveys another important message: God can grant his power to man. Whatever he sees fit for us to accomplish or command us to do, we can do it, because he can lend us power like He did to Moses. This power is intimately connected to His word. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

"Word", "thing" and Christ -- Part 3: A reversal

What fascinates me about the plan of salvation, is that it is so simple that we can teach it to small kids in a way that they can understand. But there is also so much depth to the doctrine that we can spend a lifetime learning about it and feel we are still only scratching the surface. The simple version is that we lived with our Heavenly Parents as spirits. God created an earth for us that we were sent to. Here we prepare to return to our Heavenly Parents and live with them again in celestial glory.

We can split this in two parts. The first part is the transition from immortality to mortality, the invisible to the visible. This is the pattern of creation as discussed in part 1 of this series. It also characterizes the coming of Christ to earth. Similarly, we all transition from the timelessness in the premortal existence as spirits to the mortal and fallen world with a body. But this is obviously just the first part of the plan. The second part is the same pattern in reverse. Christ conquered death and returned to immortality in a glorious resurrection. We can follow that path. This is the transition from the mortal and visible to the invisible and eternal. Part 1 of this series dealt with the first part of the plan of salvation. We looked at how the double meaning of the hebrew 'dbr' root, "word" and "thing", is manifest in the creation account. In part 2, we saw this pattern in Alma 32 and the journey towards the tree of life. It is actually a journey of the creation in reverse, completing the full cycle of the Plan of Salvation. There is beautiful symmetry in the plan that I hope to be able to demonstrate in this post.  

Lord Wilmore (the other blogger and my study companion on the other side of the Atlantic) discovered and shared another meaning of the Hebrew 'dbr' root with me. In the ancient temple, there was an inner sanctuary or "holy of holies". In Hebrew, this was called, 'debir', probably derived from the Hebrew word for speaking that we have discussed. The Holy of Holies in the temple was a place of speaking, where "the word" is found. This may seem like a strange name but it does make a lot of sense in this context and I will try to explain why I find this to be quite profound.

The creation has always been an important part of temple worship. The ancient temple was formed after the pattern of the creation account. According to scholar Margaret Barker:

The Temple was a model of the creation, and the liturgy of the temple preserved the creation. Genesis 1 was not an account of the historical process of creation, but a record of the great vision granted to Moses and others of how the world is made. In the six days when Moses was on Sinai, before the LORD called to him (Exod. 24.16), he saw the six days of creation, and was then told to replicate these when he built the tabernacle. A few ancient sources say that Moses saw the heavenly temple; but most assume that he saw the process of creation, and that the tabernacle represented this. Ancient material such as this is sometimes difficult to read, but the last section of Exodus 40, describing how Moses assembled the tabernacle, corresponds well to the days described in Genesis 1. (Source)

How did the tabernacle, or Solomon's temple that had a similar construct, model the creation? Barker gives some detail in her book, Temple Theology. The below table is copied directly from the book.


Temple/tabernacle feature



Holy of holies

The throne of God, the hidden heart of creation, the source of life


The veil

The web of matter that conceals the throne of God from human perception


The table for the bread

The vegetation of the earth, wine and incense


The seven branched lamp

The sun, the moon and five known planets


The altar of burnt offering

The symbolism is no longer clear because the text of Exodus 40 differs in the Greek and the Hebrew. It is probable that the altar represented non-human creatures


The high priest

The human as the high priest of creation

In addition, there are lots of other elements in the story about building the tabernacle that echoes the creation. The following is obtained from this source.

  • The tabernacle instructions (Exodus 25-31) are given in six segments, each beginning with “Yahweh said to Moses” (25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1). “Speaking” these six “creative” words to Moses parallels the six creative words of Genesis 1 (vv. 3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 22).
  • The seventh creative word in Exodus 31:12 introduces the Sabbath command. As in Genesis 1, we see a seven-fold creative act culminating in rest.
  • In Exodus 39:32 we read that the work was “completed.” This is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:2 to refer to the completion of God’s creative work.
  • In Exodus 39:43 we read that Moses “inspected the work and saw” that they had completed the work according to plan. Likewise in Genesis 1 God inspects his creative work and “sees” (same Hebrew word) that it was good.
  • Just as Moses “blessed” the people after completing the work (Exodus 39:43), God “blessed” (same Hebrew word) his creation in Genesis 1:22, 28; 2:3.
  • In Exodus 40:33 we read that Moses “finished the work,” which parallels how God “finished his work” (same Hebrew vocabulary) on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2).

Later, when the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple of Solomon, the same structure was used. The most important ritual in the tabernacle and temple was on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would walk through the temple all the way into the Holy of Holies. Since the temple is the creation in reverse, the high priest on this journey would symbolically peel back layers of the material creation until he passed through the veil and entered the divine presence in the eternal and invisible realm. When the high priest had entered into the Holy of Holies, he would speak and utter the name of God, Yahweh, the name that was so sacred that it could not be uttered any other place or time. The Holy of Holies was therefore 'debir' in Hebrew, a place of speaking, and a model of the beginning of creation when God spoke and the world came into existence. "In the beginning was the Word". This word was in fact Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. When "the Word" became flesh, it followed the pattern of creation. But when his flesh was sacrificed and Christ went all the way through the veil into the Holy of Holies in his role as high priest, as the Epistle to the Hebrews describes, he went back to "dabar" (the word). 

In a blog post a while ago, I described how the atonement literally and symbolically reverses the fall. The following is from this post:

Acts 5:30:

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree

1st Corinthians 15:22:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive

The atonement is the reversal of the fall! The fall came about when Adam took the fruit from the tree. The atonement came about when the firstfruit of God was hanged on the tree. The fall was figuratively a fall to the ground, to the carnal and the captivity of the devil. The atonement enabled mankind to rise, to "cultivate the ground", i.e. to become master of the carnal instead of subject to it. It enables us to eat fruit instead of dust.

The story of the fall immediately follows the creation account. Seeing how the temple or covenant path is a creation in reverse adds to this symmetry. We have a chiastic structure looking something like this:

A. Creation: Word becoming matter

          B. Fall: Introducing physical and spiritual death

          B’. Atonement: Conquering physical and spiritual death

A’. Temple/covenant path: Passing through the material creation back to “the word”

I find much beauty in symbolism and symmetry, and am overwhelmed by the beauty and depth of God's great plan for us. Thanks to Lord Wilmore for pointing me to the interesting relation between the Hebrew 'dbr' root and the temple. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

"Strip yourselves of all uncleanness"

Moroni's words in Mormon 9 stood out to me:

28 Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.

What is the opposite of stripping ourselves of uncleanness? Perhaps clothing ourselves with purity? Compare with the words of Jacob:

14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (2 Nephi 9)

This matches the language of the strong exhortation from Moroni to "those who do not believe in Christ" found at the beginning of Mormon 9:

1 And now, I speak also concerning those who do not believe in Christ.

2 Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God?

3 Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?

4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.

5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.

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

Notice that the solution for the unbelieving, offered in verse 6, involves "cry[ing] mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus" -- an obvious reference to Priesthood ordinances -- as well as a description similar to that of the garments of the righteous from 2 Nephi 9:14 -- another obvious temple covenant reference.

In the outer court of the ancient temple, the rituals involved washing and cleansing to prepare to enter the holy place. In a similar fashion, in modern temples we change into white clothing. This corresponds to "strip[ping ourselves] of all uncleanness" and prepares us to be "clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness."

Friday, December 25, 2020

A Christmas metaphor for Ether 4:13-15

It just so happened that Christmas came just as I have been contemplating one of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon, found in Ether 4:13-15.

One of our family traditions is to make sure there is an unwrapped gift from Santa near the tree for each of the little children to find on Christmas morning.  All of the other gifts are wrapped and under the tree.  

This tradition got me thinking about a gift from the Atonement of Jesus Christ that comes to each of us unwrapped, so to speak, in the form of a guaranteed victory over physical death.  Nothing is required from us to access this gift.

On the other hand, there is another gift -- a wrapped gift -- sitting under the tree for each of us.  The wrapped gift is eternal life -- living forever with God in a state of never-ending happiness and eternal increase. Unlike the promise of resurrection to a kingdom of glory, this gift must be unwrapped by us to take effect in our lives. We unwrap this gift through covenant-making and covenant-keeping. The wrapping paper symbolizes unbelief due to the material world itself, which separates us from the glory of God during mortality.

This metaphor fits very nicely into the words of Christ:

13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.

14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.

15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from youyea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. (Ether 4)

At the conclusion of the Book of Mormon, Moroni directly connects "lay[ing] hold upon every good gift" with making and keeping covenants in order to access Christ's grace and become "holy, without spot":

30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.

31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

"Word", "thing" and Christ -- Part 2: Does the fruit of the tree of life have seeds?

This series is based on the Hebrew 'dbr' root which can mean both word and thing. We saw how that plays out in the creation account in part 1. I have actually mentioned this root in a previous post discussing Alma 32. This chapter seems to play on this word/thing dualism too, indicating that this dual meaning from Hebrew may have been carried over in Nephite tradition and language. 

21 And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

22 And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. (Alma 32)

The extensive use of this word/thing dualism in the creation account and the fact that there are lots of other allusions to the creation account in Alma 32 provides interesting context. Alma 32 is the creation of the tree of life that starts with the word. Alma asks his listeners to give place to the word, as if it is a thing that occupies space. In the beginning we cannot see it. We can only use faith ("hope for things which are not seen") and look forward to the result with an "eye of faith" (Alma 32:40), not our physical eyes. But the word can eventually grow into a tree, even the tree of life.

When God created the world by his word, he also created the trees

And I, God, said: Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed should be in itself upon the earth, and it was so even as I spake. (Moses 2:11)

The parallels are striking. When God created the world, his word caused trees to grow, yielding fruit. Alma asks the Zoramites to take the word of God, plant it in their hearts and see if it can grow into a tree yielding fruit. We engage in a God-like process learning to become like Him by transforming the word into things.

In Moses 1:4, we read

my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

This is repeated again in verse 38 in the same chapter. What does it mean that his words never cease? Does he simply never stop talking? I think it goes much deeper than that. What happens when a seed grows into a tree? As quoted in Moses 2:11, "the tree yielding fruit, whose seed should be in itself", ensures that the seed is always preserved. Instead of disappearing when growing into a tree, the seed multiplies. Each fruit has seed in itself with the potential to become new trees. So does the fruit of the tree of life have seeds? A silly question, perhaps, since the tree of life is symbolic. (Or who knows, perhaps we will eat literal fruit "sweet" above all that is sweet" some day). But contemplating the symbolism has lead me here, so bear with me. Just as a single seed multiplies, the word of God multiplies. When God spoke and created the world, he also created man in his own image and likeness. Just like the tree contains seeds that can grow into new trees in their likeness, man can follow that pattern and multiply.

29 Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.
30 Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph—which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them. (D&C 132)
This is deep and pretty big, but you can probably see where I'm going with this. The promises that Abraham received concerning his seed was briefly touched upon in part 1. I quoted a verse where Abraham had received that promise using the 'dbr' root to state that no word/thing is too hard for the Lord. That word from the Lord was like a seed that multiplied for Abraham. We can receive the same blessings. 

The beginning of becoming like God is done by small and simple means: Planting his word in our hearts. But it can grow to a tree "springing up unto everlasting life" (Alma 32:41). But as God revealed to Joseph Smith,it doesn't end there. The fruit of the tree of life has "seed in itself" with the potential of "eternal lives" (D&C 132:24) and "a continuation of the seeds forever and ever" (D&C 132:19). This is why God's words never cease as Moses 1:4 states. More from D&C 132:
13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.
I'm not highlighting "word" and "things" to try to argue that God engaged in Hebrew wordplay when speaking to Joseph Smith in English. These are two common words that can naturally appear in the same paragraph. But I do believe that there is some deeper knowledge and inspiration found in the Hebrew language. In this case, knowledge that God's word is much more than just a string of letters or a sound in our ears, and I think that the scriptures quoted here along with lots of other scriptures demonstrate that.

I feel many aspects of this topic is over my head, and it is hard to wrap my head around things that go way beyond my mortal experience and understanding. But there is beautiful symbolism found in the scriptures that is waiting to be uncovered and shows us a pattern that helps us getting a glimpse of eternity.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Old Testament Temple Symbolism -- Exodus 26

This post is the next installment in a series of posts about temple symbolism in Exodus 25-28. The previous post in this series discussed symbols from Exodus 25.  This post will cover Exodus 26.

"Fine-twined linen"

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them. (Exodus 26)

I was previously unaware of this phrase in the context of building the tabernacle. It certainly adds a new layer of depth to the Book of Mormon

I know "fine-twined linen" as a symbol of pride in the Book of Mormon (see 1 Nephi 13:7-8 and Alma 4:6). I connected "fine twined linen" to the concept of "pride of the eyes" in this post. Nephi connects "pride of the eyes" with a desire to get gain at the expense of the poor in 1 Nephi 13 and 2 Nephi 26.  

What I hadn't realized is that this effect of pride of the eyes in service the "great and abominable church" (see 1 Nephi 13:5 and 2 Nephi 26:20-21) is a direct corruption/inversion of God's command to Moses:

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. (Exodus 25)

When we seek to "get gain" and hoard treasure up unto ourselves because of pride, we are not making a free and willing offer to build God's kingdom and show devotion to Him through the act of giving to the temple.

Notice how "fine-twined linen" is also used in a positive context in the Book of Mormon, each time in conjunction with "blessed"/"prospered" or "great joy and peace":

22 And they were exceedingly industrious, and they did buy and sell and traffic one with another, that they might get gain. ... 24 And they did have silks, and fine-twined linen; and they did work all manner of cloth, that they might clothe themselves from their nakedness. ... 28 And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands, for the Lord had spoken it. (Ether 10)

29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—... and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth30 ... and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, ... 31 And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church. (Alma 1)


11 ... and thus they did become rich. 12 They did raise grain in abundance ... 13 Behold their women did toil and spin, and did make all manner of cloth, of fine-twined linen and cloth of every kind, to clothe their nakedness. And thus the sixty and fourth year did pass away in peace. 14 And in the sixty and fifth year they did also have great joy and peace, ... (Helaman 6) 


This "covenant abundance" dovetails with Enoch's Zion, where the people "flourish[ed]" and "were of one heart and one mind," and "there was no poor among them." (See Moses 7:17-18.) 

Goats' Hair

The next layer of the covering of the Holy Place is made from goats' hair (see Exodus 26:7), which is associated in several ways with repentance. Samuel Ridout's Bible commentary on the details of the Tabernacle includes the following:

In addition to its use for tents, this cloth of goats' hair was also, probably, what is called sackcloth: "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair" (Rev. 6:12). This was used in mourning and afflicting the soul, as in repentance: "They would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matt. 11:21). The raiment of John the Baptist was of camels' hair, similar to this (Matt. 3:4)...

As we have noticed, these coverings were made, not of the skin, but of the hair of goats. We will get later the significance of the skin, in connection with the next covering, of rams' skins dyed red. May we, without being fanciful, suggest a few thoughts in connection with the animals' hair?

It is the outermost covering of all, over the skin, and is the point of contact between the animal and the outer world; it is also the point of separation. The hair shields the animal from the rain, and protects it from extremes of cold and heat. Thus it indicates separation. So the Nazarite let his hair grow long in token of his separation from everything that would defile (Num. 6:5). If defilement came in, he had to shave off his hair in token that he had lost his separation. One of the signs of leprosy was the hair turning its color, or sometimes its falling out was the precursor of this disease (Lev. 13:3042). The vigor of separation not being maintained, defilement and sin resulted. (source)

Hair as a symbol of separation is interesting.  It reminds me of the concept of "Zion as an enclosed garden" which has reference to the Garden of Eden.  Of course we know that Adam and Eve were ritually clothed by God at the time of their expulsion from Eden, too.

The Book of Mormon mentions "sackcloth" four times.  Two of these occur in quotations from Isaiah (2 Nephi 7:3 and 2 Nephi 13:24).  The other two occur in the context of repentance:

25 And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions; and thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me. (Mosiah 11)

9 And it came to pass that the judges did say unto Nephi, according to the words which had been desired. And it came to pass that when Nephi saw that the people had repented and did humble themselves in sackcloth... (Helaman 11)

We also see instances where intense darkness in the Book of Mormon leads to repentance (see Helaman 5:28-48 and 3 Nephi 8:20-11:41).

Acacia wood

This tree is common in the area where the Tabernacle was commanded to be built, and its wood was well-known as long-lasting and resilient. I suppose there is a practical as well as a symbolic significance to this wood.  In a similar way, the Book of Mormon frequently reminds us that the words of the sacred records will retain their brightness and stand as a witness against us at the day of judgment.  See this post for details and references.

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