Category: Jerusalem

Lehi’s Commission

When the first chapter of Nephi opens, Lehi is among those who listened to “many prophets prophesying” about the coming judgments against Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 4.) Their message was not Lehi’s. Their message was apparently upsetting to him because he responded by praying on behalf of Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) His prayer is interesting. He offers it on behalf of what he regarded as “his people.” (Id.)

The result of his compassionate prayer for others was a calling by God the Father, delivered by His Son, Jehovah. (1 Ne. 1: 8-13.) God takes note of those who have compassion for others and whose charity seeks the best interests of their fellow-man. Such people possess love, and it is “unfeigned.” (D&C 121: 41.) It is precisely because of their love of their fellow man that they are called to render priestly service. (Id.)

Lehi was a man like Christ. Just like Christ, Lehi would intercede on behalf  of “his people” and did so “with all his heart.” (1 Ne. 1: 5.)

In response to this, Lehi’s vision endowed him with knowledge about the Lord’s great plan of mercy. He knew that the Lord would overrule everything for the good. Even the suffering that would be inflicted on the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be merciful, and would be predicated on the “goodness” of God. (1 Ne. 1: 14.) Lehi understood. Because he had this knowledge, he was able to see how God’s plans were always done for the benefit and ultimate salvation of man.

Before this encounter with God, Lehi was in the audience listening to the prophets cry repentance. After this encounter with God, he joined the prophets and also “began to prophesy and to declare” a message to Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 18.) He could not “begin” to prophesy if he had been among the prophets previously. If that were the case, he would have “resumed” or “continued” to prophesy. He “began” only after encountering God. Therefore, we can know Lehi’s ministry to call others to repent did not start before encountering God and receiving his commission from the Lord.

This is what true prophets do. They do not advance their own agenda. They do not volunteer. They do not deliver a message of their own. They don’t look for witty quotes, or clever stories to retell. They receive a commission from God, and the result of their work is to offer those who will listen a chance to repent and return to God.

These individuals do not take the Lord’s name in vain. They cannot. They have been authorized to speak in the Lord’s name, and therefore their words are His. (D&C 1: 38.) He will vindicate the words of His servants because they do not speak an idle thing in their own behalf. They speak with His authority, and deliver His message.

So with the first chapter of the Book of Mormon we also get an example of how prophets are called: alone, in God’s presence, with an endowment of knowledge of God’s ways sufficient to enable them to deliver a message of repentance.

And this is only the first chapter! Imagine if we took the entire book to heart what we might find!

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 4

Jacob’s first recorded sermon identifies what concerns him. It is the “welfare of souls” (2 Ne. 6: 3) and “things which are, and which are to come” (2 Ne. 6: 4.) The definition of truth is knowledge of things which are, which were, and which are to come. (D&C 93: 24.) Jacob is interested in teaching truth. But the truth he wants to focus on is the present and future of his people.

He identifies Isaiah as speaking “concerning all the house of Israel” (2 Ne. 6: 5) and therefore they can be likened to the Nephites. Then he turns to the Gentiles and places them in the future role of “bringing thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.” (2 Ne. 6: 6.) In the dismal future of Nephite destruction by the Gentiles, there is still a more distant day when Gentile efforts will become helpful, not destructive. When that happens, the Gentile fortunes are reversed, and they will “bow down to [the Nephite remnant] with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of [Nephite] feet.” (2 Ne. 6: 7.) So the cataclysm which befalls the Nephites will also befall their Gentile vanquishers. They will be brought down to the dust as well.

Jacob also reports to his audience “the Lord has shown unto me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried  away captive.” (2 Ne. 6: 8.) Jacob must have asked to be shown. He asked and was shown, and therefore he knew his family had left Jerusalem in time to avert death or captivity. Jacob was born after they left Jerusalem; but he knew about it, inquired to know, and was shown their destruction.

This reaffirms how the departure by Lehi and the destruction of Jerusalem was inter-related. The Lord uses ‘just-in-time’ scheduling of events more often than not. There is no need to flee until the moment when the destruction is about to begin. Nor is there a need to begin the rainfall before the ark is completed. Nor is there a need to send down fire to consume the offering until the altar is built, the sacrifice offered, the water poured on the offering, and the prayer completed. (1 Kings 18: 31-38.) Timing is always the Lord’s.

Jacob also leaves nothing to the imagination of his audience. He tells them the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, will be scourged there, and will be crucified by them. Jacob knows this “according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.” (2 Ne. 6: 9.) From this we see Jacob’s pre-sermon preparation does not consist of gathering together thoughts and quotes from poets or philosophers. He consults with angels and dispenses information from heaven. Here is a source which is to be trusted. When speaking of Jerusalem’s destruction, it comes from the Lord’s showing him, and of the Messiah’s mission. It comes from the angel’s speaking to him.

We think it an odd thing to have a man speak with the Lord and be ministered to by angels. Yet in the example of Jacob, it is almost matter-of-fact. As if he wouldn’t dream of speaking about such things without consulting with heaven.

Nephi’s brother Jacob is among the great figures in all of sacred scripture. The critical differences between him and his teaching, and other men giving what they regard as inspirational thought, should not pass by unnoticed. I’m growing to respect this man Jacob.

3 Nephi 16: 17-20

 
“And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord 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 God.”
 
Given the scholarly arguments over the meaning and application of Isaiah, here we encounter a profound insight from Christ.  He attributes this quote from Isaiah to the coming events in the Americas. In this declaration by Christ we learn Isaiah was NOT speaking of the return to the Middle East for these events to unfold. Instead the “waste places of Jerusalem” are nowhere near Jerusalem. It is another place, far away, where the residue of Jerusalem’s scattered people are wasted, then restored again. It is also plural. One is here, in the Americas, on an “isle of the sea.”  (2 Ne. 10: 20.) Now we can know from Christ’s own interpretation that Jerusalem’s “waste places” are scattered throughout the world. This land is one of them.

Then we see something odd. After the removal of the Gentiles, there is joy, rejoicing, singing together, seeing eye to eye and a return to Zion. The emotional setting seems at odds with what we anticipate.  Destroying Gentiles and having the trauma of those days would seem to produce mourning and lamentation. It does not. Instead it produces singing in joy.

To redeem Jerusalem is to re-establish the promised heirs upon their own land, and bring again Zion. Whatever bottle-neck of destruction needed to bring that triumph to pass will be worth it. So great will be the peace that follows that it will wipe away all tears. Truth, saving doctrine and being fed by Christ’s own message will end all laments.  (Rev. 7: 17.)
How is the Lord’s “holy arm” made bare? How will “the eyes of all nations” see it? What will the ends of the earth behold, as the salvation of God takes place? Why is it “all the ends of the earth” which will behold it?

What does it mean to “see eye to eye” when Zion is brought again?

Why is Zion to be “brought again” rather than re-built?

If the Lord is to comfort His people, what will that “comfort” include? Why has He consistently used the word “comfort” to describe His visit with people?

Why, when the waste places are redeemed, does it say “Jerusalem” will be redeemed? Is redeeming the “waste places” the same as redeeming “Jerusalem” itself? How does that affect the meaning of other scriptures?

Why are “singing together” and “seeing eye to eye” connected in the same thought?

What does it mean to “become one” as a people? Can we ever accomplish that by acquiring enough “sameness” or “uniformity” in conduct, thought and speech? Is it worth any effort at all to mimic one another? If we are to “become one” how should each of us proceed to accomplish that? How does Christ expect us to become “one?”  (1 John 3: 2.)

Alma 13:23

 
“And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard.”
 
This doctrine contained in the scriptures was understood by this audience. The same audience who was full of iniquity and abominations because of their false religious traditions. It was in “plain terms” in the scriptures, if one doesn’t “wrest” them to their destruction.

To “wrest” means to apply such twisted reasoning that the philosophies of men are mingled with scriptures so that the result is error.

The object of the scriptures is to make matters “plain” and prevent people from “erring” in their effort to follow God.

What is the difference between someone who with their scriptures before them, finds their message sufficiently “plain” and “understood” that they “cannot err,” and someone who has the same set of scriptures and engages in “iniquity” and “abominations” because of their false religious ideas?  How can someone who is religious be certain they are not among those who err, but is instead among those who find holiness and develop faith to repent?

 
How do we know which side of this line we are on?
 
Both sides are religious. Both sides have their traditions and teachings.  Both sides are sincere and following what they believe to be true.  However, one is engaged in “abominations” because of their false beliefs, and the other has entertained angels and received such cleansing that their garments are white before God.  One side does not understand their awful state.  But the other is certain of their promise of exaltation and purity before God.
 
So, how certain are you?  Do you know you are pure before God?  Holy?  Having entered into His holy order after the order of the Son of God?  Or do you entertain some doubt about whether the traditions which you value are actually based on the truth?  Is it possible that you “err” or “wrest” the scriptures as part of your religious tradition?
 
According to Alma, all of this care by the Lord is because they are “wanderers in a strange land.” Meaning that they are in this spot at this time because they have been taken from Jerusalem, the land of their forefathers, and placed in a new, promised land. They have been persecuted and evicted from land by their aggressive cousins.  All of this to stir them up to repentance.  It is God’s care for them, God’s careful tutelage of them, that leads them to receive this profound understanding. They are on God’s errand, and therefore entitled to God’s guidance. God is providing the “glad tidings” which will permit repentance to occur.

So, applying Alma’s teaching to us, we should ask ourselves if we have repented? If we have received a message from angels declaring glad tidings? If we have received what we would recognize as a message from the Lord by someone declaring repentance?  Or do we have a weak tradition which assures us that we are right, while letting us entertain abominable (false, religious-based) errors in our beliefs?
 
These are troubling questions. Worth careful, solemn and ponderous thought.  Perhaps even prayerful thought where we ask the Lord if these things are not true.  And if we ask with real intent, He may make the truth known to us.  At least that is what He has said through past messengers. I see no reason why it would not work for us.  It’s at least worth a try, isn’t it?

Powerful teachings from Alma. But then again, one should expect nothing less from a true messenger bearing a holy order of power and authority after the order of the Son of God.  A weak and vacillating voice telling us all is well and we’re going to be fine just seems wrong by comparison.  At least I would think so. 

Alma 13:14


 
“Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.”
 
We have named a portion of the priesthood after Melchizedek. (It is not, however, the form which Melchizedek held. That is another topic I am not going to address here now. This area is complete mush in the minds of Latter-day Saint writers and commentaries. I can’t straighten that out on this blog.  I might take it up in a book and go through it methodically there.)

What is important is that the great events of Melchizedek’s time began when people humbled themselves and accepted the teachings of this “high priesthood” holder and were, thereby, saved.  Not only saved but also led into a fellowship which eventually turned into a City of Peace, or City of Salem, or Jerusalem, which was taken into heaven.

This prototype was so influential in the thinking of all who followed, that the high priesthood was named after Melchizedek. Even though he held Patriarchal Priesthood with its associated sealing power, he was the one after whom Melchizedek Priesthood was named in the form it was later transmitted which lacked sealing authority.  (Again, another topic.)

What is important in this verse is the connection between the existence of the one holding this authority (Melchizedek), and a humble people who would accept and follow those teachings.  The result of the combination of the two was that God came and dwelt among them.

This is a pattern that followed the previous pattern with Enoch.  This was the pattern Joseph wanted to return through his teaching and ministry. Joseph wasn’t able to accomplish it. We now hope to see it someday occur in the unfolding history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The most recent book on this subject, now on sale at Deseret Book (unfortunately a red-flag for me) urges the idea that the only Zion we should expect to see will come when the church president allows or directs it to happen.

This verse suggests what is needed is: 1) humble people willing to accept teaching from a high priest after the ancient order and 2) a person having that authority who will teach.

What does this do to our current accepted model?

If Zion is to return, how will it return? Will it mirror what the Book of Mormon is teaching here?

Is the church president the one who will bring this gathering to pass?

Is the church president teaching doctrine about the fullness which will bring others into the rest of the Lord?

Has the church president brought a company into the Lord’s presence? Attempted to do so? Taught or written about how that will happen?  (If so, can someone point that out to me so I can read the talk, get the book or watch the video.)

How can I know I would actually have followed Melchizedek and become a part of his city by what I do today?  (I’d like to be among them, you see.)