Thursday, April 29, 2021

"take heed that you do not transgress"

We are all familiar with the reaction of King Benjamin's people after his talk. Because they believe all his words, the are willing to enter into a covenant

And we are willing to enter intocovenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days (Mosiah 5:5)

King Benjamin explains that by entering into this covenant and taking upon them the name of Christ, they become the children of Christ and will be found at his right hand, while those who never take upon them the name of Christ will ultimately find themselves at his left hand. Entering into a covenant, therefore places us in a very distinct position. You are either inside or outside, at the right or at the left.

This will be another one of those posts focusing on Hebrew words that I believe influenced the Nephite language and worldview, even if the words were changed and spelled with different characters. Two such words in this case are "take heed" and "transgress". They relate to being inside the covenant in ways that are not obvious in English. Let us first have a look at Mosiah 5:11

And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts. (Mosiah 5:11)

"Take heed" in the KJV Bible is usually translated from the Hebrew, shamar (שָׁמַר). Lord Wilmore has already posted about this word here, here and here. The last link shows how this in fact is a major theme in King Benjamin's talk. "Take heed that ye do not transgress" would normally be understood in English as "beware", "watch out", "be careful" that ye do not transgress. This is not wrong but the term will lose some of its meaning by only looking at it this way. Shamar is also about guarding, preserving and protecting. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was commanded to "shamar" the garden. Israelites were commanded to "shamar" the sabbath (Exodus 31:14,16). King Benjamin himself was concerned about "shamar"ing his people as explained in the last of the three links to Lord Wilmore's posts. Now he has set an example and asks them to "shamar" their covenant and the name of Christ that he has given them. They should watch over, guard and preserve it, like a righteous king his people.

"Transgress" is another word that adds depth to this verse when looking into the Hebrew. It also links to "take heed" and the covenant theme in ways that are not apparent in English. The Hebrew word is avar (עָבַר). It literally means to pass through or traverse. When this is used in the Old Testament, it is often without any relation to God, commandments or covenants. People are described as passing through something like the spies passed through the promised land in Numbers 14:7 and the Israelites passed through the Jordan river in Joshua 3:14-17. It does not seem to have much to do with our traditional understanding of transgression, which we relate to sin. But frequently this term is also used in relation to God. It is the same word and the same meaning, but in a metaphorical sense. 

On several occasions, this image is used to speak about disobeying God. The idea is that people hear God’s command but pass through it. They don’t dwell in or with God’s instruction. They are quick to move on to other things. Distraction takes them away from what God has said.
-Source: Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know (p. 63). Abingdon Press.

This helps us understand that "transgress" is in fact the polar opposite of "take heed". They need to take heed so they do not transgress, because if they really take heed, transgression is not going to happen. This meaning of transgression help us understand what King Benjamin is really warning the people of. You have entered into a covenant. Now, make sure that you do not just pass through it or wander out of it because you are distracted by other things and don't pay much attention to where you are and should stay. Instead, "take heed", guard and preserve the sacred place you are in, the covenant you have entered into and the name you have received, which is the only name "whereby salvation can come unto the children of men" (Mosiah 3:17).

The rhetorical question that comes next makes sense in this context

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:13)

If transgression implies a drift away from "the name" and the covenant because we are easily distracted by other things, it will be far from the thoughts and intents of our hearts. If we instead take heed by guarding and preserving the name and staying firmly within the covenant that we have entered into, rich blessings are promised:

Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotentmay seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen. (Mosiah 5:15)



"In process of time"

Here is a short note on a phrase that interests me. I see two key instances where this phrase is used in a contrasting way.  The first is found in Moses 7 describing Zion:


21 And it came to pass that the Lord showed unto Enoch all the inhabitants of the earth; and he beheld, and lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Behold mine abode forever.


The Lord has a plan prepared for us to be taken up to heaven "in process of time." This involves learning and progress through mortality -- not all at once -- rather "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." (2 Nephi 28:30)

Compare Doctrine & Covenants 38, speaking of a dark secret:


13 And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not;


Satan has a different plan, to bring to pass our destruction, if we allow him to pull us away. I believe he's satisfied with incremental victories, because he knows each successive generation will be easier to trick if the general trend is away from God.



 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Preparing for the Sabbath day

No, this is not a blog post about what we should do on Saturday night to prepare for Sunday, even though I get flashbacks to an old primary song typing that. But I love the Sabbath and having a day of rest. Even though it was not Sunday originally and we don't have the same strict rules as ancient Israel, it is very meaningful to me to single out a day that is different from the rest of the busy week. A day devoted to rest and worship. Sabbath is a Hebrew word that literally means rest. It is symonymous to nuach (where the name Noah comes from), that also means rest and that Lord Wilmore has written a long series about recently.

In Hebrews 3 and 4, Paul is connecting the two concepts of entering into his rest and the Sabbath day.

For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4)

God rested on the seventh day from all his works and so do we when we keep the Sabbath day holy. But it is also possible to enter into his rest. This is a day yet to come. "Today" is a day to "hear his voice". The children of Israel who David and Paul talk about (Paul is quoting Psalm 95 in Hebrews 4), did not hear his voice and therefore did not enter into his rest. Hearing his voice today is what prepares us for the ultimate Sabbath day of rest to come. That sounds simple enough, perhaps, but in Hebrew, "shama" שָׁמַע, means both to hear and to obey.

Another Hebrew word of relevance here is "yomיוֹם, meaning "day" but is more generic than English and can refer to a more indefinite time period and sometimes is translated into "lifetime". After the six days of creation came the seventh day where God rested. Then came the day of our life, where we labour and prepare to also enter into that rest. Amulek puts it this way

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors...But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions. (Alma 34:32, 41)

Those who don't hear/obey today or hearden their hearts will not rest but will burn instead. 

23 Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.

24 For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.

25 Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today. (D&C 64)

Mormon also brings up this point to his son, Moroni

we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God. (Moroni 9:6)

There is a similar pattern for the earth. In Moses 7:48, the earth is longing for rest. Enoch is upset and asks God when the earth will get to rest. Eventually the answer comes

And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of thousand years the earth shall rest. (Moses 7:64)

2 Peter 3:8 states

one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Personally, I think this is purely symbolic, since I don't believe God experiences time at all like we do. In any case, the symbolism fits well considering how D&C 77 talks about the 7000 years of the earth's "temporal existence" (which I interpret to be the time since the fall of Adam). Consequently, the day of rest for the earth is also the seventh day from the point of view of He who created it. The millenium is the Sabbath where the earth gets to rest.

It is interesting to me how the earth itself follows the same pattern that we who are God's final creations are asked to follow. The earth was baptized during the flood, it will be "burned at his coming" (baptism by fire) and have a seventh day of rest, the Sabbath. When we are righteous and follow the same pattern, there is beautiful harmony between man and the whole creation.

This is wonderfully illustrated in D&C 59

12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

Basically, those who keep the Sabbath shall inherit the earth. The description seems like a promise that those who keep the Sabbath day holy are also those who are prepared to enjoy the Sabbath day of the earth, the millenium when the whole earth will be at rest.

"Wo/woe" and "alas" in the Book of Mormon

I came across an interesting quote in the book 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know by Matthew Schlimm (p. 79) regarding the Hebrew word "hoy" (often translated "woe/alas"):


My primary point is that when those to whom the prophets preached the initial exclamation, 'hoy!", they would have immediately associated this mentally and emotionally with mourning for the dead. The association of hoy with lamentation would have been especially striking to the listeners, for it would have brought into vivid relief the pronouncement of Israel's death." - James Williams


I've been studying about the "way of death" a lot lately, so this detail caught my attention. Hoy (and the closely related word oy) is meant to signal spiritual peril.

There are two details about the biblical use of the words "woe" and "alas" that I wanted to compare to the Book of Mormon usage:


  1. "Woe" is used in association with lamentation, specifically related to death.
  2. 68 of 77 uses of "woe" and "alas" are spoken by prophets


How does this compare to the Book of Mormon?


First of all, "alas" is not found in the Book of Mormon, so that takes care of that.  As it relates to "woe/wo," we find that the vast majority of uses of the word are found in the form of a warning voice from a prophet.  Here is a sampling:



Nephi


15 O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! 16 Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish. ... 24 Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! 25 Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! 26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! 27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more28 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. 29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! (2 Nephi 28)



Jacob: 



27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state! (2 Nephi 9; see also vv. 30-38)



Isaiah: 



20 Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (2 Nephi 15)



Mormon: 



Wo unto him that spurneth at the doings of the Lord; yea, wo unto him that shall deny the Christ and his works! Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost! Yea, and wo unto him that shall say at that day, to get gain, that there can be no miracle wrought by Jesus Christ; for he that doeth this shall become like unto the son of perdition, for whom there was no mercy, according to the word of Christ! (3 Nephi 29)



Samuel the Lamanite: 



11 But if ye will repent and return unto the Lord your God I will turn away mine anger, saith the Lord; yea, thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not. ... 24 Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time. (Helaman 13)



Moroni: 



24 And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief25 And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God. 26 And wo unto them who shall do these things away and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words of Christ; and I lie not. (Moroni 10)



I can't say that I'm surprised by any of this, but it was a good reminder that when we read the word "wo" in the Book of Mormon, we should associate that with a prophetic warning about how to avoid the way of death.

Friday, April 23, 2021

The cavity of a rock

Twice in the Book of Mormon, someone hides in "the cavity of a rock". This is a strange expression. Why not just use the word "cave" since most caves are in a rock anyway? I will first share two different aspects of this expression and then take a closer look at the context of its use in the Book of Mormon.

According to a Jewish rabbi, a cave or cavity in ancient Hebrew would be a euphemism for frustration and a feeling of inability. The rock on the other hand symbolizes assurance and protection and is commonly associated with God. God is the rock of our salvation (Ps. 89:26, 95:1, 2 Nephi 9:45, Jacob 7:25, etc.). The cavity of a rock is therefore a place where you turn to God for assurance in your distress.  

A very different aspect is the historical Mesoamerican setting for this expression. I don't know where the Book of Mormon actually took place, I just find Mesoamerica the most likely alternative. In this article, Jerry Grover explains that many Mesoamerican beliefs are represented by caves and ceremonies related to or taking place in caves. Anthropologists and archaeologists have linked findings in Mesoamerican caves to both kingship and scribes. These are two out of several similarities between the two "cavity of a rock" stories in the Book of Mormon.

The first one is in 1 Nephi 3, where Nephi and his brothers hide from Laban's servants

And it came to pass that we fled into the wilderness, and the servants of Laban did not overtake us, and we hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock. (1 Nephi 3:27)

The other is found in Ether 13

13 And I was about to write more, but I am forbidden; but great and marvelous were the prophecies of Ether; but they esteemed him as naught, and cast him out; and he hid himself in the cavity of a rock by day, and by night he went forth viewing the things which should come upon the people.
14 And as he dwelt in the cavity of a rock he made the remainder of this record, viewing the destructions which came upon the people, by night.

Turning to God for assurance in great distress

This symbolism is certainly present in both these stories. Nephi and his brothers had been "thrust out" (v.25) from Laban's house. They had all their riches stolen from them, had still not obtained the plates and a small army was after them to kill them. Ether had been "cast out" from among the people after they had all rejected him and his prophecies. Being encompassed by rock in that cave gave them the kind of protection that God can offer (even though Laman and Lemuel probably saw it differently, but this was the record of Nephi).

Relations to kingship

In his article, Grover cites anthropologist Healey, who has been researching Mesoamerican caves

About the same time as the Guerrero caves were in use on the Pacific coast of Mexico, several monumental, carved, stone ‘‘altars’’ from Olmec sites on the Gulf Coast depict elite individuals of this precocious society in a cavelike front cavity. These altar ‘‘niche figures,’’ surrounded by maize imagery, have been interpreted as representations of Olmec site rulers seated in the mouth of a cave. David C. Grove (1973:134) theorizes that the ‘‘emergence from the cave’’ was central to Olmec kingship, the ruler’s mythical Underworld origins, and claims to divine status. (Healy 2007)

It may not be obvious what this has to do with the stories of Nephi and Ether. But as we know, Laman and Lemuel started beating Nephi and Sam and an angel appeared

And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.

The angel uses a possible wordplay because rod (makel) and ruler (melech) are similar in Hebrew. Even though Laman and Lemuel were the older brothers, it was given to Nephi to rule over them because of his righteousness and their iniquity. Later, he became a ruler over the Nephites, who separated from his brothers.

The relation to kingship in the case of Ether might not be obvious either. But even though Ether was an outcast, he was the rightful heir of the throne. This is clear from the genealogy in Ether 1 and the narrative in Ether 11. Ether's grandfather Moron was king of the people but "wicked before the Lord". His kingdom was overthrown and he ended up in captivity. His son also spent all his days in captivity before Ether was born. 

Relations to scribal traditions

Another quote from anthropologist Healy (2007) in his Mesoamerican cave research

Scribes, a secondary tier of Maya nobility, also are potential candidates to have visited caves. They may have used cave pilgrimages as a ‘‘mechanism...to affirm their ongoing relationship with the supernatural’’ (Stone 2005:136, 144). Perhaps they visited these sacred places, as pilgrims, to acknowledge ‘‘the divine source of their craft, affirming their legitimacy and supporting their (elevated) social positions by doing so.’’ The cave texts at Naj Tunich, for example, include self-references to scribal visits, where they appear to have been trying to connect with the divine source of their offices. Landa (in Tozzer 1941:153) mentions that holy water, which likely came from a cave or cenote, was used in the purification rites for ancient Maya codices.

The authors examine several hieroglyphic texts from cave sites which, using the new translation for ‘‘cave,’’ seem to record ‘‘arrivals’’ of various visitors and refer to caves as ‘‘a pilgrimage or ritual center’’ (Vogt and Stuart 2005:160162). Stuart’s earlier work with ancient Maya texts enabled him to decipher the Maya expression for ‘‘writing,’’ tz’ihb, and the phrase u-tz’ihb, ‘‘he writes’’ from one of the cave paintings of Naj Tunich (Stone 1995, 2005a:142). He went further to show that the subject of this clause was the name of an ancient Maya scribe, with a special title of itz’at, or ‘‘sage.’’ The hieroglyph suggests that the scribe in question, with two other protagonists, came ‘‘to see’’ Naj Tunich, which phrase might actually be a Maya metaphor for ‘‘pilgrimage’’. All this fits nicely with the themes, discussed earlier, of caves as pilgrimage sites and meeting places, sometimes used by scribes.

Although Nephi doesn't write anything in the cave, he is a scribe and on an important mission to obtain the Brass Plates. Ether spends his time in the cave making "the remainder of this record" (Ether 13:14).

Of course there is much uncertainty about the ancient Mesoamerican traditional uses of caves and the connections to the specific Book of Mormon stories are rather loose. But the connection is definitely there. In any case, we can learn from these stories that obtaining, preaching or preserving the word of God can lead to adversity and hardship. But if we come to the rock of our salvation, we can find refuge and safety, even by angelic visitations.



 




Thursday, April 22, 2021

"Left by the hands of those who slew them to molder" versus "grafted into the true vine" (Creation-in-reverse)

My last post ended with a brief discussion of "creation-in-reverse," which is my term for a process described in the scriptures in two different ways.

Here is a very brief summary of each type:

  1. Covenant makers experience "creation-in-reverse" by "rend[ing] that veil of unbelief" (see Ether 4:15) and experiencing the "light of the glory of God" (see Alma 19:6). This joyful process is symbolically represented in ancient temple worship
  2. Covenant breakers experience "creation-in-reverse" of a different sort, in that their wickedness leaves them unprotected and "cut off" from God's presence. The decay of their bodies is often described in detail, often emphasizing the return to dust (see Alma 16:10-11; Alma 28:11; Mormon 6:15) or being buried in the deep (see Alma 44:22). 

Compare Genesis 1:2-4

Let's review the earliest description of the creation process:

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1)

Before the addition of light, and the division of light and darkness, the creation was:


When we reject the covenant, we simultaneously reject the purpose of the creation. In a sense, our soul becomes formless, void, and dark. The creation spoils around us.


And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? (Jeremiah 4:30)


Jeremiah preaches against Israel's wickedness and connects their covenant-breaking with a spoiling of the creation around them:


22 For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.
25 I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.
26 I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger.
27 For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.
28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it. (Jeremiah 4)


Notice how Jeremiah uses those same three descriptors for the earth from Genesis 1:2, positioned between a description of the covenant people's wickedness and the description of the creation's response. (Notice also that in verses 25-28, there is a mention of the elements of creation in reverse order -- "man" then "bird" then "fruitful place" then "land" then "heavens" becoming "black.")


Connecting "creation-in-reverse" and scriptural descriptions of hell


This leads into a bigger topic of study, one that I've been working on for several weeks. It began as I was working in my yard. My wife and I had lopped off some dead branches from a tree we are trying to revive (using Jacob 5 as our instruction manual, of course, even though it isn't an olive tree).

One Saturday, my task was to decide the fate of this pile of dead branches.  I chose fire. For about an hour, I stood in front of the firepit, gradually feeding in these dead branches. As I worked I entertained two thought processes at once: chemistry and scripture. The chemical reaction we call fire involves the breaking down of the "organized" hydrocarbon elements of the wood into more fundamental elements: water vapor, carbon dioxide, and, well, dust

At the same, I thought of Mormon lamenting the fate of his people:


...and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth. (Mormon 6:15)


I hadn't ever thought of this description of the fate of the bodies of the wicked as a symbol of hell, but it fits. 

Consider other related phrases, such as "hewn down and cast into the fire." King Benjamin (and others) describe the result of rejecting the word: 



25 ... if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls.
26 Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more forever.
27 And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever.


There is a lot to unpack in these verses, including references to justice and Adam.   I'll pick this up in a future post, but for now it's enough to point out that the fire of guilt and torment that afflicts the wicked who knowingly reject the word is a result of their decision to reject the plan of mercy. Thus we can reinforce that the purposes of mortality have much to do with the plan of mercy.


Connection to 'The Two Ways'


Mormon also summarizes the contrast between the righteous and the wicked very nicely after describing the aftermath of a war:



10 And from the first year to the fifteenth has brought to pass the destruction of many thousand lives; yea, it has brought to pass an awful scene of bloodshed.
11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.
12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.
13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.
14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life. (Alma 28)



Light versus darkness


The symbolism here boils ties in with the very fundamental elements of creation -- light versus darkness. This fundamental contrast is emphasized multiple times in the scriptures.  Here is a notable example:

23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

25 And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;

26 He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.

27 Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son. (Doctrine & Covenants 50)

See also Doctrine & Covenant 88:6-13.

Choosing the light is the way of life. Jesus Christ, of course, is both the light and life of the world (John 8:12 and John 1:4).


Conclusion


Once again we connect the temple covenant with the creation, quite directly. God created the light as He separated the light from the darkness. "Let there be light" may be seen by us as a divine injunction in addition to a declaration by God during the creation process. Mortality is all about seeking the light and cleaving to it. When we do, God promises to send us more and more, until the day comes when we can rend the veil of unbelief and experience the "marvelous light of [God's] goodness—yea, this light [which] infuse[s] such joy into [our] soul, ... that the light of everlasting life [becomes] lit up in [our] soul ... overcom[ing] [our] natural frame, and [we are] carried away in God" (Alma 19:6).


Mormon's references to Alma 5

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