Monday, May 31, 2021

Internal consistency -- Lamanite cities

We should seek and rely on a personal, spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon, independently of scholarly research and secular approaches. But when critics manage to lure away faithful members with their arguments, countering those also has its place. My assertion is that the Book of Mormon is more complex than most people realize. There are intricate, internally consistent details, that we normally don't think about. Critics do not factor those into their theories of Book of Mormon origins, but they cannot be ignored. We have given numerous examples before on this blog. Each example may not be too convincing on its own, but there are literally hundreds and combined they make it difficult to believe that Joseph Smith could remember so many details without notes or manuscript.

Here is another example. In the "war chapters" in Alma we get a lot of details about the geography of the Nephite lands. Earlier in Alma, where the mission of the sons of Mosiah among the Lamanites is recounted, we also get the names of several Lamanite cities. To make up some strange city names does not have to be too difficult, even when doing it with your face in a hat, unless you have to remember them and bring them up again at some later point and avoid contradictions. But this is exactly the case.

This is what the Book of Mormon tells us about Lamanite lands: It is (ironically) called the land of Nephi. At least, that is what the Nephites call it, perhaps the Lamanites themselves used another name, but the Book of Mormon is written by Nephites. The historical background is found in 2 Nephi 5 and The Book of Omni. An interesting side note is that Joseph Smith had not yet dictated these chapters at the time he gave the information about Lamanite geography in Alma. 

In 2 Nephi 5, Nephi and those who want to come with him, separate from Laman and Lemuel and those who are hostile towards Nephi. They establish themselves in the land of Nephi and live there for 400 years. But Nephi's brother, Jacob, prophesies

And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they [the Lamanites] shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you. (Jacob 3:4)

In Omni, Mosiah-1 is warned and flees the land of Nephi with those who want to follow him. The more wicked part of the Nephites had already been destroyed at that point (Omni 1:5). Later (in the Book of Mormon but earlier in the dictation sequence), in Mosiah 9, we read that Zeniff wants to go back to inherit the land of Nephi, but now there are Lamanites living there. Naturally, they took the land of Nephi in possession when the Nephites had either fled or been destroyed, just like Jacob had prophesied.

When the sons of Mosiah later go on a mission there to preach the gospel to the Lamanites, we learn some of their city names. Some are found at various places in the text. In Alma 23:9-12, we get a list of cities in which Lamanites converted:

The people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Ishmael;
10 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Middoni;
11 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the city of Nephi;
12 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Shilom, and who were in the land of Shemlon, and in the city of Lemuel, and in the city of Shimnilom.

7 cities altogether. Most of these are not names that Joseph Smith could have just thrown out there because they have been mentioned before. The first one mentioned is Ishmael. This is where Ammon went in the beginning of the story.

And Ammon went to the land of Ishmael, the land being called after the sons of Ishmael, who also became Lamanites. (Alma 17:19)

The king in Ishmael, Lamoni, became converted along with basically his whole kingdom. So it is natural that this is first on the list.

Middoni is next. This city is mentioned in chapters 19 and 20 as the place where Ammon's brothers were cast into prison. Lamoni was a friend of the king in Middoni and went with Ammon there and set them free. We don't read more details but we know this happened after Lamoni's conversion so perhaps he influenced the king and that later caused much conversion in this city as well. 

Next in the list is the city of Nephi. This is first mentioned in Alma 22:1. 

Now, as Ammon was thus teaching the people of Lamoni continually, we will return to the account of Aaron and his brethren; for after he departed from the land of Middoni he was led by the Spirit to the land of Nephi, even to the house of the king which was over all the land save it were the land of Ishmael; and he was the father of Lamoni.

When Aron preaches to Lamoni's father in the land of Nephi (who probably lives in the city of Nephi, since these "lands" were city states), he is also converted with his whole house. So it is natural that the city of Nephi is also on this list. There is another subtle detail that I highlighted. Why is he king over all the land except the land of Ishmael? Two chapters earlier, an encounter between Ammon and Lamoni's father resulted in him promising this:

I will grant unto you that my son may retain his kingdom from this time and forever; and I will govern him no more (Alma 20:26)

So when we later read about Lamoni's father who is king over all the land, there is now one exception, and the text references back to that detail.

Shilom and Shemlon are next on the list and never mentioned in the account of the mission of the sons of Mosiah. We have to go all the way back to Mosiah 24:1 for the last mention of these lands, where they are presented as Lamanite territory. 

Lemuel and Shimnilom are the only cities we have not read about before and therefore in theory could have been just thrown into the mix without disrupting internal consistency. But all the other 5 lands/cities have already been introduced in the text and had to match the fact that they were Lamanite cities with potential converts.

There are also a few Lamanite cities/lands that have been introduced in the text but are not on the list of Lamanite cities with converts in Alma. For instance, in Alma 21:2, we read about a city called Jerusalem (named after the city of their forefathers). This is a city with many Amulonites and Amalekites and synagogues after the order of Nehor to which they belonged. Since, for the most part, those born as Lamanites converted and not Amulonites and Amalekites, it is not unexpected that this city is excluded from the list.

The point is: Those who say that Joseph Smith just made it all up, need to explain how he could get all these details straight with his face in a hat. It is not trivial.

"Chaneph" (חָנֵף) -- idolatry and worldview (part 3 of 3)

28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9)

This is the third and final post in a series on the Old Testament concept of "chaneph." See part 1 here and part 2 here. We'll begin with Moroni's description of "great pollutions" in our day, summarized eloquently in two verses:

31 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never diesbecause of the praise of the world? (Mormon 8)

As a reminder, as discussed in parts 1 and 2, "chaneph" has the following meaning:

"Chaneph" (חָנֵף) -- corrupt, defile, pollute, profane

Moroni is condemning "chaneph" in several ways. Let's break this down into a short list.  Here are the items in red above describing the pollution of our day:

  1. "There will be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not."  Sadly, this is a perfect description of the dominant modern mindset.
  2. They "sell [them]selves for that which will canker." What an apt description of the materialism of our day. Modern conveniences and luxuries are a nice thing to experience and have easy access to, but the pursuit of them can easily become a pernicious form of idolatry
  3. They "are ashamed to take upon [them] the name of Christ ... because of the praise of the world." There is significant social pressure to avoid publicly sharing one's deep convictions about Jesus Christ, the real purposes of life, and why it is good to humbly and regularly participate in the sacred ordinances of the priesthood.

In green above, I highlighted one of the key distinguishing features that defines and sustains faith in the heavenly order: Valuing the worth of an endless happiness over the vices which lead to misery which never dies. When we see the destination of wither path and realize one takes us back to the presence of the Father through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the other leads to permanent separation from Him, there is simple no comparison. It reduces other worldviews to mere idolatry -- "worship[ping] the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made" (Isaiah 2:8).

The Modern Worldview as Idolatry

This essay by Christian theologian and ecclesiastical historian Carl Trueman offers an overview of how much of our modern world came to reject the ideal of a sacred, heavenly order in favor of the pursuit of personal happiness, which is now the central focus of modern life. Here are two quotes from that article.

If there is nothing beyond this world for which to strive, or by which we are held accountable, the gravitational pull toward personal happiness as the purpose of life becomes irresistibly strong, and the rationales for repression become increasingly weak.

Negotiating personal desire, and not objective moral judgments, has become the ethical order of the day.

Of course, there is a heavenly order and a specific covenantal purpose of the creation, which makes this rejection of God's word a form of idolatry of the highest order. The Book of Mormon speaks very harshly against abandoning these revealed principles, and even gives us several examples of what happens when a covenant people reject this worldview and replace it with one of their own making. The record is clear -- this is not a stable position and it does not end well.

What are the keys to sustaining the worldview which leads to eternal life?

This is a question I've been pondering for the past few weeks as I've thought about the concepts presented in this series.  I have a few suggestions:

  1. We must be humble and maintain an overarching desire to learn truth directly from God. If God wants us to seek Him, and if He allows us to exercise our faith and agency in mortality, then we should place seeking Him at the very top of our "to do" list. This involves kneeling in prayer, asking to be taught. This involves searching the scriptures (not just reading) and regularly putting into action the ideas and impression that come to us as a result of our study.
  2. Though we are all sinners, we should never seek to justify our sins. I would suggest that attempting to justify sin might be a more serious sin than whatever sin we seek to justify, simply because of where that thinking leads us.  If we commit a sin but maintain a humble, repentant attitude about it, it will not pose a serious threat to our continued walk along the covenant path. If, however, we commit a sin and seek to justify our choice, insisting that we 
  3. Emulate the Savior. In all things, He marked the path. We should strive to follow Him. He sought to do His Father's will ore His own in all things, and we should strive for the same.

Hugh Nibley and others have written extensively about two fundamentally different worldviews, the "mantic" or prophetic worldview, and the "sophic" or intellectual worldview.  Here is a brief summary of each:

The fundamental ambivalence of western civilization consists of a permanent conflict of spiritualities derived from the human condition itself. The assumptions underlying this conflict have created the mantic world view of vertical supernaturalism, a dualistic metaphysic that includes not only the natural order but also another world order which transcends it, and the sophic world view of horizontal naturalism, a monistic metaphysic that confines all realities to the natural order. (source)

Of course there is a wide spectrum within each of these broader classes, but this is a useful distinction to make -- between those who embrace the idea of a higher, sacred, heavenly order by which messages are communicated to our minds and hearts and for which we should strive, and those who believe the material world around us is all there is.

The scriptures very clearly indicate that we must strive for and maintain a mantic worldview. Substituting our own judgment is perilous even if our judgment is in accord with the best of worldly wisdom. I'm beginning to see this concept quite clearly throughout the scriptures, and I'll touch on this set of concepts in multiple future posts.

For now, I'll end with Mormon's description of the frailty of man:

4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!

5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!

6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide. (Helaman 12)

Friday, May 28, 2021

Hearing His voice

Recently, the Prophet has invited us to hear Him like the boy Joseph Smith did. I want to contextualize this by looking at how the scriptures invite us to hear God and how He has spoken to people in the past. I have picked up several learning points that I have divided into sections of this post.

A still small voice

It is likely that the account of the prophet Elijah was found on the brass plates. One of the most well-know stories about Elijah is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle

The last part, where Elijah wrapped his face, signifies God's presence. It was the still, small voice that came from the Lord. The Book of Mormon also talks about this still small voice. 

And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul (Helaman 5:30)
And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. (3 Nephi 11:3)

The last one is from the Savior's visit to the Nephites. It is interesting to notice that there is quaking and burning, just like the Elijah account, but they are internal instead of external. The still, small voice causes the frame to quake and the heart to burn. Another possible allusion to Elijah is found in 1 Nephi 17:45.

ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.

Compared to Elijah the events are reversed. God first tries with his still, small voice. But since they are "past feeling", he must resort to the thunder and earthquakes instead. The prophet Zenos, who Nephi quotes in 1 Nephi 19, seems to indicate that this marks the difference between the righteous and wicked. 

For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.

The thunder and tempest also comes from God, but only those who hear his voice are able to withstand those things. The next section describes a people who didn't. 

The fate of those who refuse to hear his voice

Another well-known account combining God's voice with thunder and lightning is Moses on Mount Sinai. There is a clear connection to Elijah. 1 Kings 19 and Exodus 20 both take place on Mount Horeb. Horeb is just another word for Sinai, or there may be two adjacent summits with two different names, as some scholars believe. In any case, 1 Kings 8:9 states that Moses got the commandments at Horeb and 1 Kings 19:8 states that Elijah was at Horeb when God manifested himself with a still, small voice. According to that verse, Horeb is the Mount of God. There are several other parallels. For instance, both Moses and Elijah fasted there for 40 days. Elijah cause the Jordan River to part in 1 Kings 2, like Moses the Red Sea. Moses' succcessor was Joshua, which means Yahweh saves, whereas Elijah's successor was Elisha meaning El (God) saves.

The Mount of God is easily associated with the temple and from a Latter-Day Saint perspective there is further connection in the fact that both Moses and Elijah appeared in the Kirtland temple in 1836 to restore Priesthood keys, just as they had appeared together on the Mount of Transfiguration.

When God speaks to Moses, it doesn't say that he does so in a still, small voice. To the contrary, we get the impression that it is the thundering and lightening signifying his presence. So in that context, it is surprising that God was not found in the storm, earthquake or fire when appearing to Elijah. I don't know the reason for this difference, when there are so many parallels. But in the story of Moses, it is not just about him, but also the whole people of Israel.

18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. (Exodus 20)

The children of Israel were afraid and did not want to listen. This is why the psalmist refers to them when he writes

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

Harden not your heart, as in the provocationand as in the day of temptation in the wilderness (Psalm 95)

I will get back to the part marked with green. "The provocation" and "day of temptation" are references to the children of Israel. The psalmist goes on to remind us that they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years instead of "entering into His rest" in the promised land. All because they did not hear his voice. As we just saw in Exodus 20, they did not want to hear his voice. They wanted Moses to take care of that part, he could just tell them later what God said. Similarly, if we do not seek to hear God's voice, hearing what the Prophet says will not help. The words of the Prophet are the words of God and to recognize them as such we must learn to hear Him. Then we can hear God's word and will through the prophet as well as directly and personally to us. This is why the prophet does not say "hear me", but rather "hear Him".

This quote from Psalm 95 has been discussed several times on this blog and is also referred to several times in all the other standard works, especially the bold part. Here are some examples from the Doctrine and Covenants.

And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts (D&C 29:7)

Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together, and hear my voice while it is called today, and harden not your hearts (D&C 45:6)

And even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts, and wo, wo, wo, is their doom. (D&C 38:6) 

We need to hear his voice while it is called today. Tomorrow he may call us and invite us to his rest, but if we have not familiarized with his voice we don't recognize it and respond, and will not "enter in". Not because the gates have closed right in front of us, but because we are still wandering mindlessly around in the wilderness. 

Jacob also alludes to Psalm 95.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.
Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die? (Jacob 6)

"why will ye die" is further reference to the children of Israel. Jacob urges his people not to be like their forefathers, who refused to hear his voice and died in the wilderness as a consequence, instead of entering into his rest.

"My sheep hear my voice"

Back to the green marking in Psalm 95. There is a shepherd/sheep analogy often linked to hearing his voice. 

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

This is referenced and expanded on in 3 Nephi 15 and 16. One fold and one shepherd is a result of the gathering of Israel. Hearing his voice is a prerequisite. When the shepherd calls and we don't respond, there can be no gathering. 

21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. (Mosiah 26:21)

Alma teaches this very clearly

37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!...
57 And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people...
60 And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold (Alma 5)

We are called upon by the good shepherd who wants to gather us into his fold. The gathering consists of each sheep coming "out from the wicked" and being "separate". He has called and is still calling, so it is up to us to listen, hearken and follow his voice. It is for our own good. He will lead us to safety and good pasture. If we have not learned to recognize his voice, there can be no gathering. On the other hand, when we hearken to his voice and gather, we are ready for the next step: Seeing his face.

Hearing his voice leads to seeing his face

In this section we will see how the scriptures teach that hearing his voice enables us to eventually see his face. We return again to the Exodus to draw a lesson from the ancient Israelites. We learned in chapter 20 that they were afraid and did not want to hear God's voice. This is what happened in chapter 19

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

And ye shall be unto me kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.

And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord.

10 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

I have marked some with purple also to highlight another point: When the good shepherd calls and invites us into his fold, we respond to this invitation by entering into a covenant with him. The gathering of Israel is the gathering of a covenant people. At Horeb/Sinai, Israel promised to obey his voice ("all that the Lord hath spoken we will do"), but as we saw in chapter 20, at the end of the day, they did not even want to hear it. Too bad because this would have enabled them not only to hear him but also seeing him. The Lord comments on this in D&C 84

19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

Hearing his voice is a preparatory step, often involving priesthood ordinances and covenants, that will enable us to one day see the face of God.

66 Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
68 Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. (D&C 88)

There might be subtle allusions to the Exodus here too. The "wilderness" and admonition to "sanctify yourselves" as the children of Israel were asked, are possible clues. All these references are pointing us to a story where there are lessons to be learned. The children of Israel refused the invitation to hear him. As a consequence, the higher priesthood was taken away from them and they wandered and eventually died in the wilderness without entering into his rest. Similarly, in the wilderness of our lives, the good shepherd calls us and invites us to him and his fold through covenants administered by the Mechizedek Priesthood that has been restored. If we learn from the mistakes of Israel of old and, as a latter-day people of Israel, hear his voice instead of hardening our hearts and sanctify ourselves, we will enter into his rest and behold his face. In this context, the Prophet's invitation to us today to "hear Him" is absolutely crucial.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

"Chaneph" (חָנֵף) -- a biblical Hebrew concept that unlocks meaning throughout the scriptures (part 2 of 3)

In this post, I'd like to demonstrate how a deeper understanding of biblical Hebrew can unlock meaning and connections between all books of holy scripture. This can be done with many different root words and concepts, but I'll illustrate the principle with "chaneph." 

We'll take the concepts discussed in my most recent post (here) and show how they weave their way through the following passages: 
    • Numbers 35:33
    • Isaiah 24:5
    • Jeremiah 3:1 
    • Psalm 106:38-39 
    • Moses 5:16-25, 35 
    • The Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-13
    • D&C 1:15-16 
    • D&C 52:14-18 
    • 3 Nephi 9 
    • Mormon 8:31,38

Old Testament

Until a few years ago, I typically avoided including OT references in my study of the scriptures. I found the book to be large and confusing, aside from a few verses here and there which seemed like beautiful gems.  This has changed quite a bit as I've become more fluent with the language and worldview of the OT. Interestingly, I've noticed how a concept rooted in the law given by Yahweh to the Israelites forms the foundation of concepts taught in other books of scripture. "Chaneph" is no exception. (I should note that this is a sampling of scriptures, not a comprehensive list of each and every use of this root.)

The first reference to "chaneph" in the OT is found in Numbers 35:33, in a passage about capital punishment for murder and other serious sins.

33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. (Numbers 35)

So the very first time we see this root, it shows up twice in the same verse, and it connects the righteousness of a people with the state of the land.  Sin pollutes the land.  This is a concept that shows up over and over again.

Next is Isaiah, in the context of describing desolation that accompanies covenant rebellion:

5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 24)

This is an important verse because it connects the defiled state of the earth directly to the breaking of the everlasting covenant.

Jeremiah uses the root as he compares Israel's covenant rebellion to adultery, which adds a new layer of meaning to the metaphor of the covenant relationship between Christ and the church:

1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 3)

In this verse, "greatly polluted" is translated from the Hebrew:  

תֶּחֱנַ֖ף  חָנ֥וֹף

"ha-no-wp te-he-nap"

This is a repeat of the same root twice in a row, the equivalent of saying "pollutedly polluted."

In Psalms, we get a pairing of "chaneph" with its companion root "tame" (as discussed in the previous post:

38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.

39 Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. (Psalm 106)

This passage begins by comparing covenant rebellion to child sacrifice (which I discussed in great length in this post about Ezekiel 16). We get a new idea in verse 39 which specifies the nature of this idolatry -- the people trusted in their own works and inventions rather than relying on God.

By searching the Old Testament, we've found a new layer of meaning for "chaneph." When we replace God's wisdom with something else (of our own making), we are practicing a form of idolatry which pollutes the ground (especially as this new center of our focus causes us to reject the prophets). This will play heavily in the additional scriptures we look at. But first, let's look in the Pearl of Great Price.

Pearl of Great Price

I'll move to the Book of Moses next, since it deals with ancient matters.  In the story of Cain and Abel, we see a contrast between a wicked man who loved Satan more than God who makes a delayed, half-hearted offering to God for disingenuous reasons (Moses 5:18-19) and a righteous man who makes a full offering to God of the firstling of his flock, including "the fat thereof" (Moses 5:20).

Cain hearkened not to the voice of the Lord but instead said: "Who is the Lord that I should know him?" (Moses 5:16)

We know how the story goes from here.  Cain is enticed by greed (Moses 5:38) into murdering his brother and entering an oath with Satan. The Lord says unto Cain: 

35 ...What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground.

36 And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.

37 When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. (Moses 5)

He becomes a cursed vagabond. The earth curses him such that he will not be able to receive the strength of the earth from tilling. This is a great example of the concepts surrounding "chaneph" if you ask me.  The blood of the righteous pollutes the earth as it relates to the purpose of the creation itself.

New Testament

With those OT and PoGP references as a backdrop, let's revisit the Lord's Prayer and see it with new eyes:

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6)

The message here seems to be: "Lord, we worship Thee (not idols of our own invention). We seek Thy will during mortality, not our own. Today, we will strive to engage the creation righteously and ask Thee to cause it to yield its strength up to us. Help us avoid Satan's temptations to misuse our time on earth and the abundance which comes from Thee."

Doctrine and Covenants

I'll note two references here. First, in Section 1, notice how the Lord describes the state of the world:

15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (D&C 1)

Verse 15 is a pretty clear reference to Isaiah 24:5. Verse 16 explains that "every man walketh in his own way." This is followed by a description of idolatry. Without ordinances, there is no covenant path to follow!

Interestingly, in the very next verse (D&C 1:17), the Lord describes this predicament as a "calamity." The solution to the calamity involves prophets and angels. (This will be the subject of part three of this series.)

The next reference from the Doctrine & Covenants is found in Section 52:14-18, where we are given a pattern to avoid deception by maintaining a contrite spirit and "obey[ing] [God's} ordinances." We are to "[tremble] under [God's] power" in order to "be made strong" and "bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom."

Book of Mormon

Ready for the grand finale of this very long post? Since this is a Book of Mormon blog, I decided to end with 3 Nephi 9.  Read the entire chapter and notice how the intense destruction is framed. Christ wanted to "gather" His covenant people (see 3 Nephi 10:4-6) "and [they] would not."

The destruction in chapter 9 is a result of the rejection of the prophets (the voice of the Lord), "to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them." (3 Nephi 9:7) This concept is repeat many times in the chapter.  The ground has certainly become polluted by their covenant rebellion and became a curse rather than a blessing. Those who are spared are given an invitation:

13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (3 Nephi 9)

In the next post, the final post in this three-part series, we will begin with Moroni's description of the "great pollutions upon the face of the earth" in our day and what we can do to maintain the perspective which will allow us to heed Christ's invitation.

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