Sunday, May 22, 2016

The One Mighty and Strong

At the end of his time with the Israelites, Moses prophesies that they will turn astray. He also says this:

 15 ¶The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 16 According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17 And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. 18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deut. 18)
There are many other scriptures that refer to this concept.

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3)

Is Jesus the mighty and strong one?

Most people think that the mighty and strong one is Jesus. There are a lot of reasons for that. For one, the LDS church has since around 1900 shifted away from the traditional literal interpretation of the verses that describe him, instead saying the pre-advent scriptures prophesying of this event were fulfilled at the time of Jesus. The practice of reallocating prophecy to other times in order to avoid uncomfortable conclusions is not new. It was widely practiced in the Old Testament, just they did it in reverse. They wrote off the prophecies of Isaiah and others to some long future event. We write them off as something that was fulfilled long ago.

Another reason we tend to think the one mighty and strong is Jesus is that we want to avoid unrighteous elevation of a person to the status of a demigod. When one actually lists out all the scriptures describing this person (as I will here), you must either conclude that this person is very literally a savior. That really bothers many people, particularly those who have just come out of an abusive religious relationship where men have caused them much grief through putting themselves in the place of God. Still, the fact that almost all kings in scripture are wicked did not mean that King Benjamin could not be righteous. The scriptures are still there, and we have the obligation of reading them literally and going to God to piece together the meaning.

Another reason we think of the one might and strong as Jesus is that an incomplete reading of scriptures that reference him. 
20 And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people. 21 And now I, Nephi, declare unto you, that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness. (1 Nephi 22)
36 After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus: 37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. 40 In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when “they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,” but soon would come. (JS-H)
If these were the only verses you read on the topic, it would seem clear that Christ is the one mighty and strong. And yet, he's not. Once we graduate from elementary gospel principles, we should also graduate from assuming that one solitary verse conveys the full meaning of a topic. God has scattered the complete picture across scripture. He intends for us to search them out and put them together. Mysteries do not come to people who aren't willing to invest the effort to search them out.

Why isn't Jesus the one mighty and strong? 

1. Because he said himself that he is not.

Before presenting this, let me remind readers that when God causes something to happen, he frequently takes credit for it, even if he is not the one who does the deed. For example, he could say that he destroyed the Egyptians that were chasing the Israelites when it was Moses who parted the seas and caused them to recombine over the Egyptian army.

Here is the most important passage on this topic. It is 3 Nephi 20-21. While this passage is split across two chapters in the modern Book of Mormon, recall that the chapter separations are arbitrary and were created after Joseph.

 10 And it came to pass that when they had all given glory unto Jesus, he said unto them: Behold now I finish the commandment which the Father hath commanded me concerning this people, who are a remnant of the house of Israel.
 11 Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—
 12 And verily, verily, I say unto you, that when they shall be fulfilled then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel.
 13 And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them.
 14 And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance.
 15 And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—
 16 Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
 17 Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
 18 And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor.
 19 For I will make my people with whom the Father hath covenanted, yea, I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass. And thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. And behold, I am he who doeth it.
 20 And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles.
 21 And it shall come to pass that I will establish my people, O house of Israel.
 22 And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.
 23 Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people. 24 Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me.
 25 And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
 26 The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant—
 27 And after that ye were blessed then fulfilleth the Father the covenant which he made with Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed—unto the pouring out of the Holy Ghost through me upon the Gentiles, which blessing upon the Gentiles shall make them mighty above all, unto the scattering of my people, O house of Israel.
 28 And they shall be a scourge unto the people of this land. Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fulness of my gospel, then if they shall harden their hearts against me I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father.
 29 And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father.
 30 And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them;
 31 And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name.
 32 Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye.
 33 Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.
 34 Then shall they break forth into joy—Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
 35 The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one.
 36 And then shall be brought to pass that which is written: Awake, awake again, and put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city, for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
 37 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
 38 For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money.
 39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that my people shall know my name; yea, in that day they shall know that I am he that doth speak.
 40 And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!
 41 And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
 42 For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward.
 43 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
 44 As many were astonished at thee—his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—
 45 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
 46 Verily, verily, I say unto you, all these things shall surely come, even as the Father hath commanded me. Then shall this covenant which the Father hath covenanted with his people be fulfilled; and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people, and it shall be the land of their inheritance.
 1 And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion;
 2 And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign—for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you, and which I shall declare unto you hereafter of myself, and by the power of the Holy Ghost which shall be given unto you of the Father, shall be made known unto the Gentiles that they may know concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, and concerning this my people who shall be scattered by them;
 3 Verily, verily, I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them of the Father, and shall come forth of the Father, from them unto you;
 4 For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel;
 5 Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity;
 6 For thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;
 7 And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.
 8 And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
 9 For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them. 10 But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil. 11 Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant. 12 And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
 13 Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off.
 14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
 15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
 16 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
 17 Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
 18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
 19 And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.
 20 For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;
 21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
 22 But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance;
 23 And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
 24 And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.
 25 And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst.
 26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.
 27 Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name.
 28 Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance.
 29 And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward.

It is undeniable that in 3 Nephi 21:9-11 Jesus is talking about a third person. Not him, and not the Father. A great and marvelous work will be done by "a man," not "me." The servant will be marred, and Jesus will heal him. The Father will cause this third person to bring forth the words of Jesus. It's all crystal clear. We have to use these verses, which are clear, to interpret the others, which are ambiguous. The only conclusion is that, though the prophet is technically Christ, it is actually through another man that these words come. This is why it is so important to have a correct understanding of the one mighty and strong and his mission: Those who do not heed the words of Christ through him will be cut off from the covenant.

2. The manner of Jesus' return is contrary to the description of the environment and works of the one mighty and strong.

Jesus came without glory to the earth at the meridian of time. His three year ministry resulted in bringing about 500 people to the level of glory necessary to bear his exalted presence after his resurrection. While he could appear to the masses in his glory-less state before his resurrection, he could not do so afterward. Why? Because those unprepared for his presence cannot survive it.

The primary mission of the one mighty and strong is to help people come up to the level of glory required to bear the presence of Christ. Since these people by definition are not yet there, they cannot yet endure the presence of Christ. How could Christ minister to people not yet prepared to be in his presence in order to bring them into his presence?

Passages describing the one mighty and strong and his mission:

 1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
 2 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
 10 ¶And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
 11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
 12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
 13 The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.
 14 But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
 15 And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.
 16 And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11)
"The Savior said when these tribulations should take place, it should be committed to a man who should be a witness over the whole world: the keys of knowledge, power and revelations should be revealed to a witness who should hold the testimony of the world.....All testimony is that the Lord in the last days would commit the keys of the Priesthood to a witness over all people. Has the Gospel of the kingdom commenced in the last days? And will God take it from the man until He takes him Himself? I have read it precisely as the words flowed from the lips of Jesus Christ John the Revelator saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth. The scripture is ready to be fulfilled when great wars, famines, pestilence, great distress, judgments, &c., are ready to be poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. John saw the angel having the holy Priesthood, who should preach the everlasting Gospel to all nations God had an angel---a special messenger---ordained and prepared for that purpose in the last days. Woe, woe be to that man or set of men who life up their hands against God and His witness in these last days: for they shall deceive almost the very chosen ones!" (TPJS 364)
``Behold, the Lord hath a might and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.'' (Isaiah 28:2)
"And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God. While that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning. And all they who are not found written in the book of remembrance shall find none inheritance in that day, but they shall be cut asunder, and their portion shall be appointed them among unbelievers, where are wailing and gnashing of teeth.'" (D&C 85:7-9)
"Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book. And there shall rise up one mighty among them [the seed of Lehi], who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren." (2 Nephi 3:23-24)
"[What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?] Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days." (D&C 113:5-6)
"...the throne & kingdom of David is to be taken from him & given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his linage.'' (Words of Joseph Smith, 10 Mar 1844)
"10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious.
 11 And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
 12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.'" (2 Nephi 21:10-12)
Therefore shall my people come to know my name; in that day they shall know
that I, who speak, am at hand.
7 Then shall they say,
How comely upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, who brings tidings of good,
who heralds salvation,
saying to Zion, Your God reigns!
8 Hark! Your watchmen lift up their voice; as one they cry out for joy:
for they shall see eye to eye when Jehovah returns to Zion. 10b Jehovah has bared his holy arm
in the eyes of all nations,
that all ends of the earth may see
our God’s salvation.
9 Break out all together into song,
you ruined places of Jerusalem: Jehovah has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
11 Turn away, depart;
touch nothing defiled as you leave Babylon.
Come out of her and be pure,
you who bear Jehovah’s vessels.
12 But you shall not leave in haste or go in flight: Jehovah will go before you,
the God of Israel behind you.
13 My servant, being astute, shall be highly exalted; he shall become exceedingly eminent:
14 just as he appalled many—
his appearance was marred beyond human likeness, his semblance unlike that of men—
15 So shall he yet astounde many nations, kings shutting their mouths at him—
what was not told them, they shall see;
what they had not heard, they shall consider.
1 Who has believed our revelation?
On whose account has the arm of Jehovah been revealed?
2 Like a sapling he grew up in his presence, a stalk out of arid ground.
He had no distinguished appearance, that we should notice him;
he had no pleasing aspect,
that we should find him attractive.
3 He was despised and disdained by men,
a man of grief, accustomed to suffering.
As one from whom men hide their faces
he was shunned, deemed by us of no merit.
4 Yet he bore our sufferings, endured our griefs, though we thought him stricken,
smitten of God, and humbled.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities;
the price of our peace he incurred,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 We all like sheep had gone astray, each of us headed his own way;
Jehovah brought together upon him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was harassed, yet submissive, and opened not his mouth—
like a lamb led to slaughter,
like a sheep, dumb before its shearers, he opened not his mouth.
8 By arrest and trial he was taken away. Who can apprise his generation
that he was cut off from the land of the living for the crime of my people,
to whom the blow was due?
9 He was appointed among the wicked in death,a among the rich was his burial;a
yet he had done no violence,
and deceit was not in his mouth.
10 But Jehovah willed to crush him, causing him suffering,
that, if heb made his life an offering for guilt,
he might see his offspring and prolong his days,
and that the purposes of Jehovah
might prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see the toil of his soul and be satisfied; because of his knowledge,
and by bearing their iniquities,
shall my servant, the righteous one, vindicate many.
12 I will assign him an inheritance among the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty,
because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with criminals--
he bore the sins of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52-53, Gileadi Translation)

Hear me, O isles; listen, you distant peoples: Jehovah called me before I was in the belly; before I was in my mother’s womb, he mentioned me by name. 2 He has made my mouth like a sharp sword—
in the shadowa of his hand he hid me. He has made me into a polished arrow—
in his quiver he kept me secret. 3 He said to me, You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified. 4 I had thought, I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing
and to no purpose!
Yet my cause rested with Jehovah,
my recompense with my God.
5 For now Jehovah has said—
he who formed me from the womb
to be his servant, to restore Jacob to him, Israel having been gathered to him; for I won honor in the eyes of Jehovah
when my God became my strength— 6 he said: It is too small a thing
for you to be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore those preserved of Israel.
I will also appoint you to be a light to the nations,
that my salvation may be to the end of the earth.
7 Thus says Jehovah,
the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel,
to him who is despised as a person, who is abhorred by his nation,
a servant to those in authority:
Kings shall rise up when they see you, princes shall prostrate themselves,
because Jehovah keeps faith with you,
because the Holy One of Israel has chosen you.
8 Thus says Jehovah:
At a favorable time I have answered you;
in the day of salvation I have come to your aid:
I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people,
to restore the Land and reapportion the desolate estates, 9 to say to the captives, Come forth!
and to those in darkness, Show yourselves! They shall feed along the way
and find pasture on all barren heights; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst,
nor be smitten by the heatwave or the sun: he who has mercy on them will guide them;
he will lead them by springs of water.
11 All my mountain ranges I will appoint as roads; my highways shall be on high.
12 See these, coming from afar, these, from the northwest,
and these, from the land of Sinim.
13 Shout for joy, O heavens; celebrate, O earth!
Burst into song, O mountains! Jehovah is comforting his people,
showing compassion for his afflicted.
14 But Zion said, Jehovah has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.
15 Can a woman forget her suckling infant,
or feel no compassion for the child of her womb?
Although these shall forget, I will not forget you. 16 See, I have engraved you on my palms;
cI have sealed youc to be continually before me.
17 Your sons shall hasten your ravagers away— those who ruined you shall depart from you.
18 Lift up your eyes and look around you;
with one accord they gather and come to you.
As surely as I live, says Jehovah,
you shall adorn yourself with them all as with jewels,
bind them on you as does a bride.
19 For your ruins and ravaged places, and your land laid waste,
shall now be too small for your inhabitants, despite the departure of your devourers.
20 The children born during the time of your bereavement shall yet say in your ears,
This place is too cramped for us; give us space in which to settle!
21 And you will say to yourself,
Who bore me these while I was bereaved and barren?
I was exiled, banished;
by whom were these reared?
When I was left to myself, where were they?
22 Thus says my Lord Jehovah:
I will lift up my hand to the nations, raise my ensign to the peoples;
and they will bring your sons in their bosoms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.
23 Kings shall be your foster fathers, queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you, their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust of your feet.
Then shall you know that I am Jehovah,
and that they who hope in me are not disappointed.
24 Can the warrior’s spoil be taken from him, or the tyrant’s captives escape free?
25 Yet thus says Jehovah: The warrior’s spoil shall indeed be taken from him,
and the tyrant’s captivesf escape free:
I myself will contend with your contenders,
and I will deliver your children.
26 I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh;
they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. And all flesh shall know that I Jehovah am your Savior,
that your Redeemer is the Valiant One of Jacob. (Isaiah 49, Gileadi Translation) 
My servant whom I sustain, my chosen one in whom I delight, him I have endowed with my Spirit;
he will dispense justice to the nations.a 2 He will not shout or raise his voice
to make himself heard in public. 3 Even a bruised reed he will not break;
a dim wick he will not snuff out. He will perform the work of justice
in the cause of truth.
4 Neither shall he himself grow dim or be bruised
until he has brought about justice in the earth. The isles await his law.
5 Thus says Jehovah, God,
who frames and suspends the heavens,
who gives form to the earth and its creatures, the breath of life to the people upon it, spirit to those who walk on it:
6 I Jehovah have rightfully called you and will grasp you by the hand;
I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant for the people,
a light to the nations,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from confinement
and from prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am Jehovah; that is my name.
I will not relinquish my glory to another, nor my praise to wrought idols.
9 The prophecies of the former events indeed came to pass,
but new things I yet foretell.
Before they spring up I declare them to you.
10 Sing to Jehovah a new song;
sing his praise from the end of the earth.
Let the sea roar, and all that lives in it, the isles and they who inhabit them.
11 Let the desert and its cities raise their voice, and the villages where Kedar dwells;
let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy
and cry out from the tops of the mountains.
12 O let them give glory to Jehovah,
and in the isles speak out in praise of him.
13 Jehovah will come forth like a warrior, his passions aroused like a fighter;
he will give the war cry,
raise the shout of victory over his enemies.
14 For a long time I have been silent, keeping still and restraining myself.
But now I will scream like a woman in labor and breathe hard and fast all at once.
15 I will lay waste mountains and hills
and make all their vegetation wither;
I will turn rivers into dry land and evaporate lakes.
16 Then will I lead the blind by a way they did not know, and guide them in paths unfamiliar;
the darkness confronting them I will turn into light, and the uneven ground make level.
These things I will not fail to perform.
17 But those who trust in idols
and esteem their images as gods
shall retreat in utter confusion.
18 O you deaf, listen; O you blind, look and see! 19 Who is blind but my own servant,
or so deaf as the messenger I have sent? Who is blind like those I have commissioned,
as uncomprehending as the servant of Jehovah— 20 seeing much but not giving heed,
with open ears hearing nothing?
21 It is the will of Jehovah that,
because of his righteousness,
they magnify the law and become illustrious.
22 Instead, they are a people plundered and sacked, all of them trapped in holes,
hidden away in dungeons.
They have become a prey, yet no one rescues them, a spoil, yet none demands restitution.
23 Who among you hearing this will take heed of it hereafter, and be mindful and obey?
24 Who is it that hands Jacob over to plunder and Israel to despoilers, if not Jehovah, against whom we have sinned?
For they have no desire to walk in his ways or obey his law.
25 So in the heat of his anger
he pours out on them the violence of war,
till it envelopes them in flames— yet they remain unaware—
till it sets them on fire;
yet they take it not to heart. (Isaiah 42, Gileadi Translation)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Scripture Study: D&C 132. How we miss the point of this section.

This post is essentially a second part to this one.

When I study scriptures, I like to frequently stop and ask questions. Sometimes, these are questions about something I've never understood. These help me expand what I know. Sometimes, these are questions about what I think I understand. These help me reconcile what I think I know with new truth God might be willing to show me.

Everyone who has ever read D&C 132 has an opinion about what it says. You could draw a tree describing these people. The first dividing question is do you believe plural marriage is from God. If so, D&C 132 to you may be the center of your spiritual grounding. If not, you have some reason to write off D&C 132. Maybe you are among those who think D&C 132 is either wholly or partially a post-martyrdom creation of Brigham Young. Maybe you think that it describes singular marriage and not plural marriage.

I would love to rattle off my personal opinion about this section, but that would only be a diversion from what matters. I will stay focused here.

Q1. Is D&C 132 truly from God?
A1: Enough of D&C 132 is from God that it is worth studying. In fact, the inspired contents of the section are of vital importance to anyone seeking Christ. The dubious portions are not at all relevant to the actual point of the section (more on that momentarily).

Q2: Is this section about singular marriage or plural marriage?
A2: Neither. The section mentions both singular marriage AND plural marriage. However, that is not at all what the section is about. There are two (possibly three) reasons for the confusion: First, the question(s) asked by Joseph to generate the revelation involved plural marriage. However, God very commonly provides answers that contain a much broader swath of truth than the original question. This is certainly one of those cases. Second, marriage is used as a case study to demonstrate several of the points of the revelation. Third, there are at least some in both camps (singular and plural marriage) who love to stuff this revelation and anything else they can find into their world view to justify what they already believe.

Q3: So what is the point of this section?
A3: The point of this section is to teach the law of the priesthood. The law of the priesthood is actually very simple, so it is hard to imagine why so much misunderstanding surrounds this section.

The law of the priesthood.

Here is my paraphrase of the vital parts of D&C 132:
3-4: If God reveals something to someone, and they don't obey it, they are damned.
5-6: Every blessing has a corresponding law. Those who obey the law, receive the blessing. The new and everlasting covenant is the fulness of the gospel (D&C 66:2), or the highest laws existing in our scope. In other words, it is the set of laws pertaining to the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom. If you don't obtain and live these laws, you are "damned" or limited to some inferior degree of glory.
7-11,13-14: Only the blessings and commandments you have received from God will endure after this life, and during this life the only things that really matter are what God himself asks you to do.
12: The only way to come to the Father and Son is by doing the things they tell you to do.
15-20: For example... Note: this passage is not the point of the section. Marriage is not "the law." It is not the "new and everlasting covenant." It is simply a case study of a typically-understood-to-be-religious-rite to demonstrate what happens when two people are married because of revelation from God vs. not.
21: Rehash of same point in 5-6.
22-25: If you obey God's instructions to you, you will meet him face to face. If you do not meet him face to face, you are not obeying God's instructions to you, you do not know him, and you are not yet to Celestial glory.
28-29: The law of the priesthood is to obtain and obey revelation and commandments from God.
34-35: This is another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time Abraham's taking of Hagar as a wife.
36: Another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time Abraham sacrificing Isaac.
37: Another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time Abraham's taking of concubines.
38-39: Another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time of others taking multiple wives.

That's it. That's the whole point of the section: The law of the priesthood is to obtain and obey revelation and commandments from God. It is sad that this section has received so much attention for good and evil while so few if any have realized the whole point of it.

While it is true that verses 30-33 lay out the law of plural marriage, they are not the point of the section. It is very possible to magnify these verses out of proportion by ultra focusing on living them while ignoring the much more important majority of the section regarding obtaining and obeying your own individual revelation from God.

I know some people who live in plural marriage because they think it is the thing that matters most to God. I know a lot of people who would never live plural marriage because they think God would never want such a thing. I think both types stand to benefit greatly from the message here: If you don't know God, you don't have the new and everlasting covenant. What matters most is obtaining and obeying revelation from God. Keep his commandments in all things. Be true and faithful in all things.

Find him, know him, trust him, and obey him.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Drawing closer to God.

I really enjoyed listening to Matt's autobiographical podcast on experiences leading up to his audience with Jesus. When you listen to someone else's story it reminds you of elements of your own that you might not have paid attention to. I really liked the punchline of his pre-audience story. He said, basically, "God, I've done everything you've asked me to do. Why have you not kept your promise to reveal yourself to me?" That is a gutsy thing to say. It ought to remind some of us of the following line: "Adam, having been true and faithful in all things, desires now to enter into your presence." The feeling that we have faithfully kept all the commandments is a feeling we ought to have. It is a necessary condition to obtain communion with God.

We really do need to be perfectly obedient.

There is a lot of false doctrine floating around concerning exactly how redemption works. The gist of the status quo belief is that if you "do your best" God will meet you there and forgive you of the rest. That doctrine, which has crept into every Christian sect of which I am aware, is completely unsubstantiated and directly refuted by God's word. One could play a game where the objective was to disprove this doctrine from each book of scripture. You could find all the scriptures that disprove it, then you could try to pare your list down to the fewest number of verses that do so adequately. It would be a good exercise. Here is one brief scripture chain from Doctrine and Covenants that suffices.

That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law...cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still. (D&C 88:35) 

Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors; and justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law. (D&C 82:4)

It is quite simple. The law is not one list. It is progressive. "...Unto every law there are certain bounds." (D&C 88:38). "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it..." (D&C 93:30). What is true in one context is false in another. To every law, there is a different higher law.

Glory is given commensurate with the degree of law obeyed. Not with the degree of obedience to the law you receive--that is something quite different. The degree to which you disobey the law that you have received is the degree to which you are willfully disobedient. If you are willfully disobedient in the least degree, you are barred from living with God no matter what degree of law you have received. You can picture eternal progression as two columns on a computer screen. In one column is an infinite continuum of law. It keeps going forever. Each of us is at some finite point on that continuum. If you were to click some point on that continuum, you would get a body of light/truth/commandments/law (it's all the same) to appear in the right column. The right column turns green if you are true and faithful in those things, and red if you are not. This analogy reveals that there is a danger in God giving you more light and truth. At every degree of glory (every dispensation of truth to you), you risk losing everything you have gained. You cannot progress without skin in the game.

The steps to progression.

Step 1: Obtain an an additional increment of light and truth.

Step 2: Learn to live by the light and truth you have.

Step 3: Receive the degree of glory associated with obedience to that light and truth.

The trouble with step 1 (obtain an an additional increment of light and truth).
The trouble with this step is that there is risk. Even though Satan obtained the penultimate degree of glory known to us, he lost everything by being disobedient to the new knowledge revealed to him at that point. When you incur new knowledge, you void your right to keep the glory you have because you can lose it all if you do not obey the new knowledge you are given. The third part of heaven was cast out because they rejected a new covenant. It didn't matter what their state was prior to the revelation of the covenant.

Because of the risk, God does not force knowledge onto people. There are innumerable hosts of heaven that remain in their current state because they have no desire to progress. They do not want to risk what they have. In other words, they do not love light and truth enough, and they do not trust God enough to risk it all to progress. The bulk of new light and truth can therefore only be received by sincerely request to God. You have to ask, seek, and knock, or you will never be given the next rung in the ladder.

The trouble with step 2 (learn to live by the light and truth you have).
It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that our "best" is good enough. I put this into quotes because God says that man is capable of keeping every commandment given. In other words, we lie when we say we are doing our best and yet are in sin. Real progress requires real obedience. That's all there is to it.

If we find ourselves living in perfect obedience to what we know, and yet missing the blessings associated with that law, we either are mistaken in what we consider to be the blessing associated with that law, or we are mistaken in our perceived obedience. In either case, the solution is to ask God what we yet lack. It is a fair question, and he always answers it.

I remember reading D&C 93:1 as a recent convert and thinking that I was fulfilling the requirements for entering the presence of God, yet I had not received that blessing. It turns out that while I was keeping the commandments I knew, I had not yet received the level of commandments associated with that blessing. I did not know it at the time, but I should have been asking for more commandments to get to that level.

The trouble with step 3 (receive the degree of glory associated with obedience to that light and truth).
The danger here is assuming that you know all there is to know. As an example, suppose you think the windows of heaven have opened to you because you pay 10% of your gross income to the LDS church. There is no harm done unless you assume that your perceived blessing from God indicates you now know everything there is to know about tithing. While it is great to receive blessings from heaven, they can turn into stumbling blocks if we use them to ignore potential further light and knowledge. In the case of LDS tithing, it is a very corrupted principle, and many levels of further understanding and greater blessings are readily available to those who are willing to entertain the thought that something greater is available.

Abraham did not assume that the blessings he received from his father's religion were all there was to gain. Through studying the scriptures, he was able to see that much greater blessings were available, and he put his father's religion on the altar to find the law that delivered the blessings received by the patriarchs in the scriptures. Like Abraham, all of us can look to the scriptures and see blessings far beyond what we have received in our lives. We all ought to realize what this means: no matter how true our current beliefs seem, we will have to let go of at least some of them and search for something better if we are to obtain that kind of relationship/power with God. Put another way, every disparity you see between yourself and God will require your giving up something you think you know to fix.

Truth is progressive, and there is always more to know. The glory of that which you do not know will always exceed the glory of what you do know.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Out of the mouth of a Jew

Q: What is the book Nephi sees that proceeds from the mouth of a Jew?

Answers I have heard to this question:

  • The Book of Mormon.
  • The Bible.
  • We haven't received it yet. It can't be the Bible, because it says "the mouth of a Jew", whereas the Bible came from many Jews. It can't be the Book of Mormon, because the book of Mormon came from the seed of Manasseh, not the seed of Judah.

It turns out that there is an answer to this question, and like most scriptural questions, the answer is found in the context of the quote.

The answer: "The" Jew is symbolic, not literal. The book is the Bible.

It is good to harrow up our understanding of things from time to time. In this case, we are told plainly that "the Jew" is a symbol that Nephi was shown, what "the Jew" represents, and what the book is:
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. 20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them. 21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book? 22 And I said unto him: I know not. 23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a JewAnd I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles. 24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God. 25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.  26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. (1 Nephi 13)
First, Nephi sees the Gentiles carrying the Bible from their captivity to the United States. He doesn't understand what that literal book is (verse 22). In response, his mentor shows him an illustrative vision. To get this conclusion, read verses 23 and 24. I have italicized the relevant parts above. In this illustrative vision, he is shown that the book came from the Jews symbolically, with a single Jew delivering the words from his mouth. It is of this book that the 12 apostles bore record. It is from the Jews (plural) that these things go to the Gentiles. We are told that these things went via the 12 apostles (verse 26).

When Nephi says "the book that preceeded from the mouth of the Jew" he is saying "the book that I saw proceed from the mouth of a Jew in my vision." This is, in effect, a title for the title-less book, not a description of how it was actually produced. He says how it is produced in 1 Nephi 13: "a record of the Jews" containing "the covenants of the Lord" and "prophecies of the holy prophets." He says it contains the same stuff as the plates of brass, just shorter.

He never indicates that this book has a single author. In fact, we are told explicitly that there are multiple authors. We are told that among the authors of this book is John the Revelator:
19 And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.
 20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
 21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.
 22 And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.
 23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men. (1 Nephi 14)
Notice how he says one of the twelve apostles will write the remainder of these things. Remainder means "the rest"; what remains after some portion. John, therefore, was not the sole author of the book. This passage alone is sufficient evidence that the book that proceeds out of the mouth of the Jew does not proceed out of the mouth of a single Jew at all. Instead, the Jew is representative of a group of Jews who contributed to the book. But that isn't all the evidence.