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Witch of Endor

King Saul lost his counselor-prophet when he died of old age. (1 Sam 25:1)  Saul’s unstable conduct and unfaithful behavior precluded him from getting an answer from the Lord. “And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” (1 Sam. 28:6)  So Saul went to visit a woman who could conjure the dead. Saul had the woman conjure the deceased Samuel.

Saul had prohibited conjuring as a matter of law within the kingdom. (1 Sam. 28:3) So think about what he’s doing: 

– it’s illegal to go see a conjurer, so he’s breaking his own law.
– he goes to see the witch of Endor in order to get access to the dead prophet.
– so are we to trust the witch? or are we to trust the spirit that the witch conjures to be reliably Samuel?

Life really gets complicated for the superstitious and foolish.

Prophets and entropy

I have been struck by how much of the message which Samuel the Lamanite and Abinadi both deliver have previously been the subject of Nephi’s prophecies.  Almost every bit of Samuel the Lamanite and Abinadi’s messages are first included within Nephi’s message.  It is possible that both of these later Book of Mormon prophets were “restoring” to new generations the message originally taught by Nephi which had fallen into neglect.

The entire message of Joseph Smith was to restore what had been here before and become lost.  The work of scholar Margaret Barker suggests that Jesus Christ was restoring First Temple theology and earlier lost traditions.  

If the gospel was originally preached to Adam (and I think it was) then every prophet from that day until now has simply been restoring what was once here. Prophets fight the law of entropy.  Mankind keep losing truths and prophets keep bringing them back.  

One of the great “signs” that there is a true prophet on the earth is the restoration by them of truths which have fallen into disuse or neglect.  True prophets are at war with entropy and decay.  

Continual worship

After Christ’s resurrection, when He had ministered to His disciples, and proven that it was He who had been crucified, Luke makes this interesting observation: “And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” (Luke 24:52-53

First, it is interesting because Christ had fulfilled the Law of Moses.  Therefore, the rites of the temple of Herod were no longer necessary.  Yet Christ’s disciples returned to the temple “continually” to worship Him.  Second, the temple was under the control of those who conspired to kill the Lord.  Despite this, Christ’s disciples were “continually” in the temple.  

True worship by a true disciple is never impaired by the circumstances. We should not allow anything to distract us from our own “praising and blessing God.” If it can be done in the temple of Herod after the crucifixion of Christ, it can be done today. 

Satan fell from heaven

Satan was not thrown out of heaven until after this earth was created.  Jesus remarked, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) Similarly, John’s revelation records that Satan “which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9) From this we know that Satan was not cast out until after the creation of this earth had prepared a place into which Satan could be cast. 

Several of the astronauts who walked on the moon during the Apollo project reported having deeply spiritual experiences when they left the earth.  One of them became a full-time minister.  

C.S. Lewis wrote a science fiction trilogy in which the first volume titled “Out of the Silent Planet” made this earth isolated from the heavenly chorus because of its wickedness. 


“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.  Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea: for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:12)

Dumbing down?

I had a friend suggest to me that the Lord was requiring the church to “dumb down” the curriculum. I absolutely reject that idea. It’s just preposterous. The Lord always offers light and truth to any who come to Him. It is men who turn away from what is offered.

Weekend movie

I watched a new DVD we bought from Deseret Book titled “One Good Man.”

If it was satire or intended as irony then it was quite good. If it was just a straight up drama then I hated it. Since it was an LDS product, and sold at Deseret Book, I assume it wasn’t meant as irony or satire.

It offended me because the lead character was called to be a Bishop. This makes the hero a church leader. The hero treats one of his ward members as disposable, but goes out of his way for non-members and widows. It resulted in the inactivity of an entire family whose sole outreach by the bishop was to go Christmas caroling with his family on their porch. While there, he tells the wife that he, “hadn’t seen them in church lately.”

It was depressing. As irony it shows how a “good” man can’t always do good. Life is riddled with conflicts and unintended harm. So I like it as irony.

How I study the scriptures

I was asked about how I study.  It was a good enough question I thought I ought to address it here.

First, I spent over 20 years teaching Gospel Doctrine weekly.  To prepare for a class I would read the assigned scriptures on Sunday evening.  Beginning Monday I would research in commentaries what others had said about the passages in the assigned lesson.  Then before going to bed I would re-read the scriptures for the next lesson.

I would continue this process daily until Thursday.  Beginning Thursday I would start to outline what I intended to cover in the lesson on Sunday.

Throughout the week I would listen to the relevant scriptures for the next lesson on tape/CD whenever I was in my car.  So on the way to and from work I would listen and re-listen to the scriptures.

On Saturday I would pray then put a final lesson plan together. It took about 10 hours a week for me to prepare a 50 minute lesson. 

In all the time I taught I never repeated a lesson.  I tried to go deeper and deeper into the meaning of the material every time I taught it.

Today with that background I read books and scriptures daily.  However, I take what I learn back into my scriptures and add cross-references or margin notes to make scriptural passages more meaningful for me.  My scriptures have very little underlining and no coloring, but there are many notes and cross-references in them.

I try to tie any new concept I learn, no matter the source, back into the scriptures.   Lately I have also taken to using an electronic version of the scriptures to help locate material or passages which relate to a topic.

Twelve Oxen

The Temple of Solomon had a “sea” for washings of the priests.  The description of that “sea” is found in 1 Kings 7: 23-26Significantly the “sea” sat upon the backs of twelve oxen. (verse 25.)  Three were facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. 

In the time of the First Temple, these twelve oxen foreshadowed the scattering of Israel to the four corners of the earth.  The destruction of the First Temple completed the scattering, which began at the death of Solomon, who was responsible the construction of the First Temple.  When he died, the kingdom was divided north and south.  The northern kingdom contained ten tribes, which would be taken into Assyrian captivity at about 725 b.c., and then be lost to history as they scattered northward.  The remaining two tribes of the south were taken captive by Babylon at 600 b.c., and then a “remnant” returned.  They were finally dispossessed of their land at 70 a.d. by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and scattered throughout the Roman Empire.

We also build fonts in Temples with twelve oxen bearing the font of water used for baptisms for the dead.  These twelve oxen are also divided into groups of three facing north, west, south and east.  Now, however, the oxen signify the gathering of scattered Israel.  They also signify by their number, three, the concept of presidency or organization under restored priestly authority.  The circle of twelve also are a symbol of restored, reorganized Israel in the latter-days to once again exist as a united people upon the earth.

Nicodemus

When Christ taught publicly and could be heard daily, there was no need to approach Him at night in private.  However, Nicodemus, a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus to examine Him “by night” without his peers knowing that he was making this contact.  Christ knew the heart of Nicodemus, and put the matter squarely to him:
 
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3: 3.)
 
The assertion made here is: 
 
“Verily, verily”–meaning that Christ was capable of announcing truth.
 
“I say unto thee”–meaning that Christ was capable of making commandments, establishing conditions, announcing the requirements for salvation.  Indeed, Christ was putting Himself into the position of Moses, becoming a lawgiver.
 
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” –meaning that if Nicodemus intended to see heaven, Christ was declaring the condition for entry.  Becoming a new creature was essential.  Without newness, new birth, a new approach to life, all things which Nicodemus followed would lead away from the kingdom of heaven.

Nicodemus responded: “How can a man be born again when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into the mother’s womb, and be born? ” (John 3: 4.)
 

This isn’t a rhetorical or meaningless question, nor does it announce ignorance.  Nicodemus is testing Christ.  If this is a new lawgiver, and possessed the capacity to announce conditions for entry into heaven, then He needs to explain His meaning.  This is a Pharisee Rabbi, asking a young, new Rabbi to set the matter plainly.

Christ responded: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”  (John 3: 5-8.)


Now it is put plainly:
 
Born as a new man, by water (baptism) and Spirit (receive Holy Ghost) is required to “enter into the kingdom of God.”  Without receiving these new ordinances from the new officiators (John the Baptist and Christ), the old ordinances will no longer be accepted.  This is a call to Nicodemus to receive the new prophets then preaching. Without accepting these new prophets, he could not enter into God’s kingdom.
 
Flesh is just flesh. What is required to be able to go where God is will require every person to receive a new Spirit, new life, and become connected with heaven.  
 
Heaven is unruly, unpredictable and blows without predictability.  The Spirit is unruly, requiring things which men do not anticipate.  It takes you places you have not been before.  You cannot just sit within the councils of the Sanhedrin and reason with men’s understanding.  You must become inspired by a higher source.  You must accept that new direction from above, or you will never enter into God’s kingdom.

Brilliant.  Christ taught the teacher.  Now the matter is put to him: Will he receive a new life, and leave the old one?  Will he become born again.

How hard it must have been for a man in Nicodemus’ position to approach Christ.  The fact he came at night testifies to the discomfort of his circumstances.  Yet Christ, in patience, told him how to receive eternal life.

What a revealing encounter.  We are the richer in our understanding for it having occurred.