Saturday, August 31, 2019

Barges, Boats, and Arks- The Mystery of Constructing the Vessel

"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters." 
(1 Nephi 17:8)

The Prophet Nephi was a recipient of the light and knowledge transmitted by the Fathers to the House of Israel.  In true Israelite fashion, he designed his record to transmit not only his history but the mysteries of the Fathers to a future generation. Within this body of knowledge there has been preserved and an ancient Israelite teaching called “the mystery of the divine throne.”   It is the key to the mystery by which prophets like Enoch, Moses, Isaiah, and Lehi experienced God, whether through vision, transfiguration, or translation, and ascended through the heavenly realms to God’s throne.  Through this vessel of ascension ancient prophets obtained knowledge of celestial worlds, the secrets of creation, and the company of Heavenly Hosts.

Much of the understanding and knowledge of the Fathers was transmitted and preserved by various sects and disciplines in Israel.  Over millennia of persecution and apostasy from outsiders and from those within the body of Israel, many of these schools went underground in an attempt to preserve the light passed down by the Fathers to come forth again in a future generation before the coming of Messiah to the world.  Threatened by the existence of this knowledge, political and religious authorities began to hunt down the students and teachers of this knowledge torturing them and killing them in some of the most brutal scenes of violence imaginable.  To the world and the secret combinations that seek to control this world, the knowledge of obtaining the mysteries of Heaven and the presence of the Divine Assembly stands as a clear and present danger to their quest for more power and dominion.

While many keys and teachings regarding this knowledge were preserved by various bodies of Israelites, much of the pure knowledge of these mysteries had become lost or obscured by time and persecution.  Israelite tradition holds that at one time there were great schools of the navi’im or prophets in and out of the land of Israel who preserved this vast body of teaching.  With the destruction of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel as a result of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions, teachers were killed, records were lost, and those families and sects who did preserve the knowledge of the Fathers went underground or left the land of Israel all together.

The hunting and persecution of those who held this knowledge continued through the times of Christ and the Roman occupation of Israel.   By the year 135 of the Common Era, Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef, one of the last of the great preservers and teachers of this knowledge, was brutally killed by the Romans aided by some religious authorities of the Pharisaic persuasion who saw this knowledge as threat to their power.  In their quest to eradicate this light from the earth, they skinned him alive and stripped his bones with an iron scraper. Those of his disciples (including his son) who did survive hid in a cave for 13 years during which time it was said they were visited by Elijah the Prophet with instructions on how to preserve and teach this knowledge in the generations to come.

The “mystery of the Divine Throne” is also known by other names such as the mystery of the Merkavah, the Divine Chariot, the Mystery of the Ark, the Divine Vessel, The Vehicle of Light, or the Stellar ship, etc.  It is the vehicle or vessel whereby an individual or group of people make their journey from this world to the divine throne room of God. The reaching of the divine throne room of God was known as reaching the Land of Promise.  While many different teachers have used different phrases to describe and explain this ship or vehicle by which the prophets connected and ascended into the Heavenly Worlds.  The teachings regarding this mystery are attributed to Moses and Abraham who received their knowledge from the Fathers and from the Mouth of God himself.

The Book of Mormon- Instructions on Building the Ship

The Book of Mormon as an Israelite record contains the fullness of the Gospel and with this fullness comes the hidden mysteries of Israel. As we examine Nephi’s record, he records his journey in the wilderness and the command by God to build a ship.  His account of the ship while detailing the events surrounding his experience, troubles, and construction of his vessel also entails his knowledge and instruction to his posterity regarding the mystery constructing the vessel, ship, or ark to connect Heaven and Earth.

“And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness. And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters. And it came to pass that we did pitch our tents by the seashore; and notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit.  ” (1 Nephi 17:4-6)

Lehi and his family traveled in the wilderness of correction for eight years prior to coming to the land they called Bountiful.  In the wilderness our carnal/natural state is revealed. It is also the place where we can correct and come into greater connection with God here in our temporary tabernacle/tent of wandering.  The number eight represents the culmination or fulfillment of their correction.  It represents a time when the person is prepared to receive the light.  It represents a time when the person’s soul is large enough and pure enough to receive eternal life or the land of promise.  Eight years in the wilderness represents the end of correction (tikkun).

After their travel in the wilderness, Lehi and his family arrive at a land that they called Bountiful because of its much fruit and wild honey.  The symbol of fruit and honey is reminiscent of the Feast of Yom Teruah/ Rosh Hashanah.  This Feast of Israel occurs in the seventh month (Tishri) right after the sixth month (named the month of Elul post Babylonian Captivity).  This month is a time of repentance in preparation for the Fall Feasts (Appointed Times) of Israel that commence with Rosh Hashanah.  According to tradition, after the incident of the Golden Calf and Moses breaking of the first set of tablets, Moses ascended Mount Sinai on the first day of Elul for a period of forty days.  After he ascended the Mountain of the Lord, he then descended to the camp of Israel at the base of the mountain forty days later on Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah.  To this day, Jewish tradition celebrates Rosh Hashanah by dipping fruit (apples) in honey.  In ancient Israel the symbol of fruit dipped in honey was a symbol of correction and the putting off of the natural man.  It represented the sweetness of a restored relationship, and a place of serenity and plenty.  This place of serenity and plenty is represented by Nephi’s declaration of Bountiful.

Like Israel who went through a period of correction, Nephi records that they too came to a place of bounty, sweetness, and serenity after their period of correction as represented by the afflictions and difficulties they experienced.   The spiritual state of correction and change leads to a condition of bounty, sweetness, and serenity where they could see the many waters that separated them from the land of promise; the waters representing the barrier that separates the earth from the Throne of God as demonstrated in Genesis:

And God said, Let there be a firmament (dome or barrier) in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-8)

This place of Bountiful serves as a place of ascending the mountain of God. Here in Bountiful Nephi ascends the Mountain of the Lord to receive instructions.

“And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” ( 1 Nephi 17:7-8)

(Later {in 3 Nephi 11:1} this ascension is paralleled by his descendants in third Nephi who ascended the Mountain of Lord at the Temple in the Land of Bountiful where the Lord manifested himself to all the people.  The physical temple in ancient Israel being a symbol for the Mountain of the Lord:

“And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.” )

The Prophet Nephi had ascended the Mountain of the Lord in varying degrees of intimacy during his correction in the wilderness.  Each ascent being prophetically marked four times by the phrase, "My Father dwelt in a tent". In Bountiful he is once again commanded to ascend in preparation for their journey to the Land of Promise that represents the Throne of God. With each ascension into the mountain he is also is teaching his readers the manner of ascension through the four worlds- also known as ascending the tree of life or ascending the rungs of Jacob’s ladder:

The ship that Nephi is commanded to build is designed to carry his family across the waters.  The waters symbolize a purifying element that in ancient Israel is referred to as the light of mercy (chassadim).  Like the flood of Noah these waters are fierce with both the power to destroy and purify with shear force.  Nephi’s ship like Noah’s ark represents a construct or vessel that acts as a protective barrier around a person to protect them from the obstacles of the great deep that can both purify us and also prevent us from reaching the land of Promise.   The forces can be both the influences of the physical world as well as influence of the spiritual world.  The design of the ship given by God is not only meant to carry Nephi and his family across the ocean but serves as instructions to his future generations (his people) in how to enter the presence of the Lord; i.e, the construction of a ship to cross the waters of the deep to reach the Land of Promise.


The building of every ship requires the materials to construct the ship.  In the cases of Noah, The Jaredites, Nephi, and Hagoth there is one thing they all had in common-the building of a ship or vessel.  In each of these cases, they fashioned timber, wood, or trees to construct their vessels:

"Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch." (Genesis 6:14)

"And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water." (Ether 2:16)

"And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship. Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men. And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things." (1 Nephi 18:1-2)

"And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward." (Alma 63:5)

Besides being literal timbers of curious workmanship used in constructing the physical ships, these stories are crafted in such a manner to communicate the construction and purpose of holy vessels.  In Israelite thought trees or timbers are compared to men (and women too):

The first instance of this comparison of men as trees is found in the Torah:

"“When you shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them; for you may eat of them, and you shall not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of you? Only the trees of which you know that they are not trees for food, you shall destroy and cut them down; and you shall build bulwarks against the city that makes war with you, until it fall.” (Deuteronomy 20:19-20)

Another instance is seen in the prophets:

"“Blessed is the man who trusts in YHVH, and whose trust YHVH is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat comes, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

As well as the writings:

"“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree. He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in YHVH's house. They will flourish in our G-d’s courts. They will still bring forth fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and green, to show that YHVH is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Psalms 92:12-15)

And Again, this same idea is also preserved in the New Testament:

"“He came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him, and begged him to touch him. He took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village. When he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands on him, he asked him if he saw anything. He looked up, and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees walking.” Then again he laid his hands on his eyes. He looked intently, and was restored, and saw everyone clearly…” (Mark 8:22-26)

And again we see the Book of Mormon comparing the House of Israel to a tree:

"For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard; and it grew, and waxed old, and began to decay." (Jacob 5:3)

While Nephi states that he fashioned his ship out of "timbers of curious workmanship" he is also teaching us that the vessel to connect Heaven and Earth is us (men and women) who need to be fashioned after the manner of the Lord's instructions.  In doing so "great things" are revealed.

Obtaining the Tools to Construct the Vessel

“And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me? And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make a bellows wherewith to blow the fire, of the skins of beasts; and after I had made a bellows, that I might have wherewith to blow the fire, I did smite two stones together that I might make fire.
For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not; And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem. Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence. And it came to pass that I did make tools of the ore which I did molten out of the rock.” (1 Nephi 17: 9-16)

The construction of a ship to cross an ocean is a mighty feat.  When Nephi receives this command from God he faces the problem of not knowing exactly how to perceive or create what seems to be an overwhelming and complex work.  To complete such a great feat as building a ship to cross the deep he needs the instructions and correct tools to build the ship to make it a reality.  Nephi creates the vessel with tools just as a blacksmith takes raw materials (ore) and works upon it to fashion various them into a functional form.  In Israelite thought the raw material or the ore represents our desires, our thoughts, and intentions. In this earthly world, our desires start out as rough, crude, and without form.  Our ability to design our vessel according to the patterns given by God help us to perceive the spiritual world, its boundaries, and the eternal gift of receiving from God to bestow upon others.

Nephi as a spiritual blacksmith creates bellows to blow the fire.  Bellows are instruments of air (as corresponding to the world of Beriyah) or wind that represents the instrument through which the spirit of God as the Holy Wind or Breath blows upon the spark of fire.  The instrument through which the air flows is particularly made of the skins of beasts.  The knowledge passed down by the Fathers communicates that when Adam and Eve were in the garden their bodies were different.  Some teachings suggest that unlike our bodies their bodies were bodies of light—pure and refined.  After partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they were cast out of the garden and God clothed them with coats of skins, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)  These coats of skins represent our mortal bodies.

In true Israelite form, Nephi layers his account with a teaching much deeper and important than a cursory reading of the “story” he relates.  The coat of skins represents our mortal bodies wherein resides and flows the Holy Wind of God (Holy Ghost or Ruach Ha Kodesh/Elohiym).  This wind then breathes or fans the spark of fire.  The fire is struck by the striking together of two stones. The two stones have a dual symbolic meaning.  The first is found in Deuteronomy 8: 15-16:

“And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth (heb. Chayil- strength), that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”

The two stones being struck is an assumed allusion to the word flint- as even in the ancient world stones of flint could be struck to produce fire. The Hebrew word for flint or stone is challamiysh Using the keys passed down in Israel to unlock Nephi’s teaching we then go to the Torah to find the first place where this word is used; Deuteronomy 8:15-16.  Using this key we can examine the depth of Nephi’s account to discover further instructions on how correction and ascension takes place by connecting it to the Lord’s declaration to Moses, “Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 8:15)

Just as the children of Israel were led through the wilderness and fed by the Lord even to bringing forth water out of the rock of flint, Nephi’s two stones (of flint) that struck fire leads the Israelite reader back to remembrance of the deliverance of their fathers in the wilderness.  In parallel to this Nephi explains, “For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not; And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.”  Man cannot correct himself or ascend solely by virtue of himself; it is done by the direction, instruction, and further revelation given by God.

Correction and ascension are accomplished with the presence of the Lord- to one degree or another whether by his spirit or second comforter. The element of fire is symbolic of the world of the Celestial or Atziluth- the presence of God.  Joseph Smith followed this same line of thinking, "God Almighty Himself dwells in eternal fire; flesh and blood cannot go there, for all corruption is devoured by the fire. "Our God is a consuming fire." When our flesh is quickened by the Spirit, there will be no blood in this tabernacle. Some dwell in higher glory than others." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44, p.367)

Just as God was actively present through their journey in the wilderness (both Israel and Lehi’s Family) so too is he the light and sole provider through our journey of ascension through the wilderness or barrier that separates this world from the Heavenly World.  There is another important aspect and symbol that also comes into play- two stones.  The symbols of the two tables of stone direct us back to the words of God to Moses, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.” (Exodus 34:14)

Like the stone tablets whereon the commandments of God are engraved, our hearts are also tablets upon which God’s instructions are engraved.  In Israelite thought, the heart is the center of our thoughts and desires.  Even as Jeremiah declared:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people..” (Jeremiah 31:33)

The commandments of God written upon two stones comprised the heart of the covenant. As we fulfill the commandments of God, the stones are struck and the spark of celestial light above sparks within our hearts where it is then fanned by the Wind or Spirit of God (the Holy Ghost or Ruach Elohiym) to become the purifying fire.  The celestial fire created by the fulfilling of God’s commandments purifies our desires, thoughts, and intentions.

Nephi’s words create the following parallels:

Smiting of the two stones = light of the lord in the wilderness to the promised land = striving (working) to fulfill the commandments in faithfulness and diligence

In Israelite thought the physical world is a reflection or manifestation of the heavenly worlds.  That which is constructed above manifests itself in the world below.  As we commence the construction of our vessel below based upon the instructions given from above, we can construct a vessel or ship to carry us across the waters of the great deep to reach the Land of Promise or the Throne of Heaven. While the details of Nephi’s account appear mundane it contains the spiritual light transmitted to him by God and the Fathers.

(Article Copyright August 31, 2019-Robert Kay)

(To Be Continued)

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