Tag: Messiah

Lehi’s Message

Lehi delivered two separate messages to his generation at Jerusalem. These two messages provoked two separate reactions.

The first message was that they were wicked, and were engaged in abominations before God. (1 Ne. 1: 19.) In other words, these were sinful people needing to repent and return to God.

When the people heard “the things which he testified of them” their reaction was to mock and ridicule him and his message. (Id.) They had the scriptures, the priesthood, the Temple, the ordinances, and they were absolutely certain they were living their religion just as God wanted them to. They were “chosen” and were holy people. This idea of being “wicked” and engaging in abominable practices while they lived devoted lives seemed rediculous to them. Lehi could not be taken seriously. If there was anything to this message, then they would expect it would come from the established hierarchy, not some obscure trader living in Jerusalem. He wasn’t even a Levite for that matter.

The second message was much more serious. He spoke “plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.” (1 Ne. 1: 19.) Since this was an idea the Jews of that day had rejected, Lehi’s testimony of Christ was too much. He was accusing them of apostasy. This aroused anger and even fury. The idea that these holy people, devoted to their religion, practicing the ordinances and preserving the Temple rites could be in a state of apostasy was too much for them to brook.

In response to this second message they had a second reaction: they wanted to kill him. (1 Ne. 1: 20.) They knew what to do with this kind of message. They would excommunicate, or “cast out” anyone who dared to preach this message. It threatened the pretenders who presided. It threatened the order of their day. It challenged the authority of the faith. It was too much.

Lehi would be either cast out (excommunicated). Or he would be “stoned” (an officially sanctioned religious punishment). Or he would be “slain” (a mob reaction not sanctioned by the religion). (Id.) The first two were to be imposed by the religious leaders. The third, however, would be popular reaction. An uncontrolled mob, showing spontaneous religious zeal, having been indoctrinated by their leaders to react in this manner. The leaders would prefer the third remedy. That would show their teaching was having the desired effect. If not, then the first two would be imposed.

Two messages, and two reactions. The popular practices of religion of Lehi’s day were condemning souls. No one was being saved. No leadership existed which would lead men back to God’s presence.

Lehi listened to the “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent” (1 Ne. 1: 4). He learned for himself, directly from God that this was a true message. He took up the message and he delivered his own testimony.

This was a message from God, whom He had met. This was authorized and, whether the Jews of his day would acknowledge it or not, it was binding upon them. Therefore, when they rejected his testimony against them and his message requiring them to repent, they rejected God’s word.

These deeply religious peers of Lehi’s were astonished at the idea an obscure merchant could speak with and for God. Once again the first chapter of the Book of Mormon introduces us to a world where God alone decides who He will call. Then, after a private audience with the Lord, the commissioned spokesman proceeds to cry repentance. These are radical ideas, and prove the Book of Mormon is no ordinary text. It is a warning from God, and its precepts will bring mankind closer to the truth than the precepts you will find in any other volume of sacred text.

Mosiah 3: 16-17

Half a millennium following the angel’s visit to King Benjamin, Mormon wrote a letter to his son Moroni addressing the topic of child baptism. The angel condemned it (Mosiah 3: 16). Mormon condemned it (Moroni 8: 11-14). If anything, Mormon’s statements are more emphatic, and condemn those who believe in such rites for children. Mormon explains that little children “cannot repent” (Moroni 8: 19), and the angel explains it is not possible for children to sin (Mosiah 3: 16). Little children are not accountable before God, and therefore their mistakes, offenses and errors are covered by their innocence, and the atonement of Christ on the other. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not understand God (Moroni 8: 17-20).

Mankind are all subject to sin. Over a lifetime we are all corroded by this environment. To preserve this creation, death has been introduced so that no matter how far men may fall from God’s grace, their lives will end. In their place, children who are innocent before God come into this world. It is by and through children that hope returns, innocence is renewed and creation continues. Little children are where God’s great renewal of mankind takes place. If not for them, this world would have ripened in iniquity long ago.

The angel draws a parallel between Adam’s fall and Christ’s atonement. (Mosiah 3: 16.) The one brought death to all, the other brings life to all. Even those who will squander their opportunity for more are still redeemed from death through Christ.

Then the angel declares where salvation (something more than rising from the grave) is obtained. It is completely in Christ. “[T]here shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3: 17.) It is not a church. It is not an ordinance. It is not an organization, initiation, family, relationship with, or promise from a man or men, nor any other means. It will be Christ, or it will not happen.

What, then, does it mean to be saved “in and through the name of Christ?”

What is His name? Or, more correctly, what are His names? How does one become saved through His name?

King Benjamin will later have his people take upon them the actual name of Christ. (Mosiah 5: 6-7.) How are you “called by the name of Christ?” Do you, literally need to become “Christ?” That is, do you literally need to become a “Messiah” or a “Christ” or an “anointed one?” Because the name “Christ” is akin to the word “christened” or “christening,” meaning you have become anointed.

How do you become anointed? Is it through application of physical oil to the physical skin? Is that an anointing in the sense that Christ was anointed? Or, is the physical anointing a symbol of another kind of anointing, another kind of christening? If so, what does that entail?

When the angel marks a man “in the forehead” (Rev. 7: 3; D&C 77: 9) is that literal? What kind of anointing, or christening, or seal is involved?

Did Christ set the pattern? Does it mean to “take upon you His name” that you, in like manner, are christened, anointed or sealed? Can you be His without this? Can you take His name upon you without conforming to the same pattern as Christ, who is the “prototype of the saved man.” (Lectures on Faith, 7: 15-16.)

“It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him. …But those who have not made this sacrifice to God do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for …where doubt and uncertainty are there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time; so that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; …and where faith is weak the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.” (Lecture 6: 8, 12.)
How does one lay hold on the salvation that comes through the name of Christ spoken of to King Benjamin by the angel in Mosiah 3: 17?

Mosiah 3: 8

The angel identifies the Lord by name and title: “Jesus Christ” which is the English version of the Greek form of the name Joshua, or Yesheva, the Anointed or the Messiah. In other words Joshua the Messiah, or Yesheva the Messiah. In our English language equivalent, Jesus Christ.

The name “Christ” is derived from christening, or anointing. Meaning that Christ came to us designated, foretold, sent and anointed with the calling of redeeming mankind. He was God’s chosen sacrifice. He came into the world to be offered as the sacrifice that would fulfill all righteousness.

He is also “the Son of God.” His entry into this world came as a consequence of the Father having been directly involved in introducing Him here. He is God’s own Son. He came with godly parentage, and is capable of offering a godly sacrifice.

He is also “the Father of heaven and earth,” meaning He did not come here as a novice. He has been through this, and knows and presides over it all. His is the power and glory of the Father. He laid that aside to condescend to be here, but He is in reality and truth, “the Father of heaven and earth.”

He is also “the Creator of all things from the beginning.” Notwithstanding anything you may have been told to the contrary, the angel knows what he is saying to King Benjamin in this chapter of Mosiah. After all, the angel lives with the very person he is describing. These are not just titles, but hard won identities belonging to the One you call your “Brother.” In truth, He is much more than that. He earned His exaltation before this world was begun. Therefore, He had the power to create and organize this world as the “Father of heaven and earth.”

The angel adds “and his mother shall be called Mary.” The mother of Christ was not selected to become the one who bore Him carelessly. She, too, was known from the foundation of the world, chosen for the role, and trusted by God the Father to bring His Son into the world. Her name is given by this angel to King Benjamin more than a century before He would be born. Consider how important her calling was for a moment, and you will have some idea of how carefully she would have been prepared, even before birth, for this role.

From verses 7 and 8 we have some idea of how significant the Lord’s role, titles, power, significance and responsibilities were even before His birth here. We can also contrast the humble, obscure circumstances He came into this world with what great glory was His before birth. The only ones who recognized His birth were His parents, the family of a cousin, a handful of shepherds, and an elderly prophet and prophetess at the Temple of Jerusalem. He came into a family of limited means. He grew up without power, wealth, social standing, control over the church or state, in a beleaguered and subjugated province of Rome These were the circumstances “the Father of heaven and earth” chose to enter mortality. We attach such great importance to office. Christ attached nothing to it.

To the extent Christ relied on the presence of official “office,” He used it to conceal His presence, and to oppose His mission. He allowed everyone who would see nothing in Him to see just that. For those whose eyes were opened to the things of heaven, He allowed them to see “the Father of heaven and earth” and the “Creator of all things from the beginning.”

How often the Lord chooses to send His messengers in exactly the same way as He came! Without rank or office, and without social significance or recognition; as with Abinadi, Samuel, Peter, Luke, Joseph Smith, Amos, and Elijah. The test remains exactly the same in every generation. We can know Alma would have received Christ, because he received Abinadi’s teachings. Against the opposition of the society he lived in, Alma heard in the message something from the Lord.

How difficult would it have been to have seen in the obscure and lowly station of Christ the reality that this was the Son of God? For the most part, the “Christian” world flatters themselves into believing they would have recognized and accepted Him if they lived in His day. The only reason most people claim Him now is because of the two millennia of Christian conquest, and traditions of their fathers. If they had to choose a living, teaching Christ of obscure and uncredentialed origin, they would reject Him. They want buildings, budgets, hierarchies, and social acceptance. Today Christianity offers all that to them.

The meek and lowly Lord who came was everything the angel foretold. But He came with no credentials that we should respect Him. No office, that we should recognize Him. No wealth and influence, that we should admire Him. He was without form or the kind of regalia we respect, and therefore no reason to desire Him. (Isa. 53: 2.)

Isaiah 53:8

Isaiah 53: 8 states:
“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
The idea of our Messiah emerging from “prison and from judgment” was a bit shocking to his listeners.  There is little wonder at Isaiah’s original question about who would believe the report.  Should not the Messiah emerge from a palace?  From a university (center of learning)?  From a recognized hierarchy?  From a notable family?  From respectable circles?  We would think so, wouldn’t we?
Because of the presumptions, we do not look for Him as a prisoner, or one against whom judgment has been rendered.  Nor do we expect His messengers to come, as they have so often in scriptures, from obscure places, bearing obscure names and having no credentials.
When Isaiah adds that the Messiah will be “cut off from the land of the living” he made a startling point.  The Messiah will die!  The Redeemer will not avoid death and the grave.  He will lose His life.  What follows adds to the wonder of it all:  “For the transgression of my people” will the Messiah be cut off into death.
Now the focus has changed.  Isaiah’s message shifts from the suffering of the Messiah into the transgression of Israel.  It is Israel’s responsibility that their Messiah must suffer so.  They will need a Messiah who will undertake this suffering, for they will not abandon their transgressions and will need a sacrifice made for them.  They will need to confront love so great that it will die to redeem them.  The proof of the Messiah’s devotion to them will be shown by His humiliation, suffering and death.  This is His proof.  This is His credential.  This is the record which will show for all mankind what great lengths God will go to reclaim His beloved people.  They transgress, He atones.  They sin and wander off as lost sheep, He pays to re-gather them with His blood.
His suffering may surprise them, but their surprise should be astonishment at the great love He holds for them.

Isaiah 53:7

Isaiah 53: 7 states:
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
These three references to Him refraining from “opening his mouth” and being “dumb” (meaning silent) are referring to more than His failure to respond to Herod’s inquiries.  (Luke 23: 8-9.)  This is a reference to Christ’s “Word,” which if employed, could have moved mountains, held armies at defiance, and summoned “twelve legions of angels” to His defense.  (Matt. 26: 52-53.)  Pilate was told that he may have been the Roman Procurator, but he had no power over Christ which Christ did not permit.  (John 19: 7-11.)
Christ remained silent, choosing to exercise meekness in the face of the threat aimed at Him.  (“Meekness” as explained in Beloved Enos, which is really a great power.)  It was in this sense the Isaiah found His silence to be prophetically remarkable.  One of the great signs of the Messiah.  He would be the One whose words could have exercised power to defy armies, but who refrained from speaking those words.  He would, instead, voluntarily submit to the abuse and scorn of those who hated Him.
As to our Lord being shorn, Isaiah also foretells His beard being plucked by those who would smite, abuse and strike Him.  (Isa. 50: 6.)  Surely our Lord was indeed “shorn” as a “sheep” before His sacrifice.

Isaiah 53:3

Isaiah 53: 3 states:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
The Messiah would be both “despised” and “rejected” by the very people who claimed to follow Him.  The astonishing report of Isaiah was unbelievable.  It makes no sense that the people who looked forward to deliverance would reject their Deliverer.  Why expect them to “despise” and “reject” the very one they rely upon for their hope?  It is little wonder that Isaiah’s report would not be believed.
Isaiah’s Messiah would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  He would mingle with the commonest of people, bearing with their infirmities, ministering to them. All the while, He will be a thorn to those who despised His ministry.  Those in good society would “hide their faces from Him,” and refuse to associate with Him.  He had nothing to offer them.  For them to acknowledge Him would require them to condescend.  Better for them to hide their faces. 
He warned them that if they were ashamed of Him, He would in turn be ashamed of them.  (Mark 8: 38.)  He also counseled them to be careful about their standard of judgment, because it would be applied to them.  (Matt. 7: 2.)
Despite the coming Messiah’s teachings, and Isaiah’s testimony of Him, the chosen people nevertheless “despise” Him, and “esteem Him not.”  It would simply be too difficult a task to confront Him in the flesh and find it possible to recognize Him for what He was.
We presume we could have recognized Him.  However, the test He set up was one that He cautioned was coming.  Our unflattering views of Christ’s contemporaries may, in turn, leave us without excuse should He choose as He does so often, to send us a message from an obscure or un-credentialed source.  
I wonder how many of us would recognize the truth, if it came only with the power of veracity behind it.  Forgetting all the messenger is lacking, could we be starving ourselves from truth by again rejecting the open hand the Lord extends us?  Whether by His own voice or by the voice of a servant, it will always be the same.  (D&C 1: 38.)