Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Mystery of Coriantumr and The Peoples of UR

Names Mean Things:


The purpose of this series of articles is to explore some of the meanings of the names that we find in the Book of Mormon.  In Hebraic thought names are meant to communicate much more than just a title or identifier such as Tom, Dick, or Harriet.  In the Israelite mindset names are often action oriented and descriptive in their usage so as to enrich our understanding of the text by embracing the depth of meaning contained within names.  In other words, sometimes there is more to a name than meets the eye.

As I have discussed in previous articles, it has always been my contention that many of the names for people and places in The Book of Mormon are the phonetic spellings of Hebrew words or Hebrew word constructs into English.  As the record itself was translated by a young man who had no real formal education, much less education in the Hebrew language and culture, I stand in awe of the record in its usage of Hebrew word constructs and Hebrew poetic parallelisms.  It follows an inherent adherence to many of the scribal laws of Israel and the Israelite teachings of interpretation that were preserved by various traditions of Judaism to this day.

ESROM: 


The name Esrom first appears in the record of Ether:

“ And now, in the days of the reign of Omer he was in captivity the half of his days. And it came to pass that he begat sons and daughters, among whom were Esrom and Coriantumr” (Ether 8:4)

The name Esrom comes from the Hebrew name Hezron, the son of the patriarch Reuben, and is first mentioned in Genesis: 46:9:

“And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.”

The name Hezron (pronounced Chetsrown) meaning “surrounded by a wall”.  It’s primitive root meaning to surround with a barrier, fence, or stockade.  We can see this understanding preserved in the Hebrew parallelism couched in the text:

And now in the days of the reign of Omer
he was in captivity the half of his days.
And it came to pass
that he begat sons and daughters
among whom were Esrom and Coriantumr” (Ether 8:4)

Here the poetic parallelism connects the captivity of Esrom’s father Omer to the name of his son meaning surrounded by a wall; which would make sense as if someone was in captivity.

CORIANTUMR:


The name Coriantumr has been a subject of intense discussion among many scholars.  As Mormon himself appears to follow many of the Israelite scribal traditions, then to unlock the meaning of the word we need to begin to examine its Hebrew Parent Root and its usage in the text.  The name Coriantumr first appears in the Book of Omni:

“And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.” (Omni 1:21)

The word Coriantumr does not appear as a name in any available Israelite text, but as a Hebrew word construct it reveals much more.  By examining the word as a phonetic Hebrew construct we can distill the name down as follows:

CoR = Koph Resh= meaning the bringing together of two peoples

Nun= seed or by seed

AM= people or of the people

UR= of UR as in Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham originated

According to the record of Ether, the Jaredites came out from the land of Sumer at the time of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel.  Ur of the Chaldees was in the region of Sumer or southern Mesopotamia where the Tower of Babel was located.  The city of UR itself considered to be the birthplace of Abraham and his brother Haran.

The poetic parallel in this first mention of Coriantumr yields something quite interesting:

“And they gave an account of one Coriantumr
and the slain of his people
and Coriantumr was discovered
by the people of Zarahemla
and he dwelt with them
for the space of nine moons.”

Here the name Coriantumr is connected with the phrase “space of nine moons” or the gestational period of a child; i.e. the joining of two peoples-Jaredites from the land of UR with the Israelite people of Zarahemla who were descendants of Abraham-who also came out of UR.  My! Oh My!  Could this be a soap opera or what? (LOL)

We see this meaning supported by a later descendant of Zarahemla whose name was Coriantumr who was a descendant of Zarahemla:

“And they came down again that they might pitch battle against the Nephites. And they were led by a man whose name was Coriantumr; and he was a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was a dissenter from among the Nephites; and he was a large and a mighty man.” (Helaman 1:15)

Here the connection is even further supported by the phrase “large and might man” as it was connected with Jared of whom Coriantumr(1) was descendant and who Coriantumr (2-in Helaman) was a descendant:

“And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.” (Ether 1:34)

In examining this name a great mystery is revealed in the identities of the various parties in The Book of Mormon.  Three peoples comprised of the Nephites, The People of Mulek/people of Zarahemla, and the Jaredites.  All three whose ancestors originated from the Land of UR in Mesopotamia near the Tower of Babel, received a covenant from God, whose descendants were brought to this Land of Promise, and who intermingled as one people. It would also explain many of the arguments between the various parties regarding who had the right to rule and the resulting wars.

The idea of pure lineage, birthright, and the right to rule are concepts that are intricately interwoven throughout the scriptures. An example of these is communicated by the Prophet Mormon when he made the declaration, "I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi." (3 Nephi 5:20)

(Names Mean Things series...to be continued)

Copyright May 2, 2020-Rob Kay

Saturday, April 25, 2020

MORMON: THE BOOK OF PURE OR LIVING WATERS




"And it came to pass that as many as did believe him did go forth to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts. Now, there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water, and Alma resorted thither, there being near the water a thicket of small trees, where he did hide himself in the daytime from the searches of the king." (Mosiah 18:4-5)

Over the past year I have received significant outrage from some because of the usage of the word "Mormon" in my blog Mormon Yeshiva.  In fact saying the word "Mormon" in some circles is now treated more like a 4-letter word than with the sacredness it should be revered with. The beauty of the Book of Mormon as an Israelite document is that not only is the narrative designed to bring our hearts and minds back to the God of Israel, but even the many names used are designed to draw our attention to many ancient and sacred teachings meant to be passed down to future generations.  The word or name "Mormon" is one example of a sacred word meant to draw a picture to draw our hearts and minds to the source of all righteousness.

Many scholars have debated over the years about the meaning and etymology of the word Mormon.  In fact it was an object of much speculation during the time of Joseph Smith when some scholars began to attribute the word Mormon to a Greek word 'mormoo'  meaning a hob-goblin or spectre.  In more recent LDS circles the name was associated with the idea of meaning "more good".  But the peoples oF the Book of Mormon were an Israelite people with deeply rooted Israelite/Jewish origins.  Examining the word "Mormon" from this perspective reveals an ancient Israelite teaching hidden in plain sight.


THE BEAUTY OF THE WORD "MORMON":


In Hebrew the word Mormon would be connected to the Hebrew root of Mem- Resh- Mem***:



Here the letter MEM carries the meaning of water as in waves of waters which can be clearly demonstrated from the Early Hebrew more so than in the Modern Block style hebrew that came into predominate use after the Babylonian captivity.

The Letter Resh is pictured as follows:



Here the letter Resh is puctured in the Early Hebrew as a head and is where we get the concepts associated with Rosh Hashana (Head of the Year) and Rosh Chodesh (Head of the Month).  It also carries with it the idea of being the origin or source of something.

If we put these these ideas and word pictures together we see that the word Mormon from the root Mem- Resh- Mem or even the base root Resh Mem carries with it the meaning of "The source, origin, or head of waters".   We find this idea demonstrated in the Book of Mormon in the Book of Mosiah where the name Mormon and it's origin are explained:

"And it came to pass
that as many as did believe him did go forth
to a place which was called Mormon
having received its name from the king
being in the borders of the land
having been infested
by times or at seasons
by wild beasts.

Now, there was in Mormon
a fountain of pure water
and Alma resorted thither,
there being near the water a thicket of small trees
where he did hide himself in the daytime
from the searches of the king."
(Mosiah 18:4-5)

A fountain is the head or source of water.  The source or head of the waters is where we would find the purest waters coming forth. The idea of a pure fountain is connected to the idea of living waters that come from the fountain head which in Israelite theology comes from the Throne of God and The Tree of Life. We see this concept demonstrated earlier in record of 1st Nephi:

"And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God." (1 Nephi 11:25)

The concept of Living Waters is among the most ancient of symbols employed in the TaNaKh (Old Testament) as well as in the writings of the New Testament.  The idea of living waters is connected to the grace and mercy (chesed) of God but is also a symbol for the living revelations that proceed forth from the Throne of God.  The fountain/head/ or source of these waters is the mouth of God himself as all the words or revelations of God are considered living waters.  This same concept is also preserved in the words of the Messiah:

"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:38)

"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (John 4:10)

In addition to this, the concept of ritual immersion called tevilah (often associated with baptism by immersion) in living waters or a gathering of waters (Mikveh) demonstrates this idea of being immersed not only in the grace and mercy of God but also in his word.  The Book of Mormon also preserves this ancient teaching where Alma the elder and his followers are baptized/immersed in the waters of Mormon:

"And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart.

And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. And again, Alma took another, and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water." (Mosiah  18:8-15)

Here the waters of Mormon (or the fountain of pure/living water) was the location where ritual immersion could take place legally fulfilling the legal requirements of this ordinance.  Over the years I have had people ask the question why did not Alma baptize like we do but instead go under the water himself.  This patter of immersion is actually quite traditional and is still preserved in some sects of Judasim to this day where at the commencement of a ritual immersion the priest or rabbi would go down under the water with the first recipient to be immersed.  In other words, the picture being described is very Israelite/Jewish.

WHEN THE WATERS BECOME FILTHY


Connected with the idea of pure of living/water we also see it's opposite portrayed in the vision of Nephi:

"And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell." (1 Nephi 12:16)

And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?

"And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water. And I said unto them that it was an awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God." (1 Nephi 15:26-28)

Many critics of The Book of Mormon zone in on this "apparent contradiction" where Lehi describes a fountain of living waters and then Nephi describing the filthiness of the water.  However if we understand that the symbolism of the living waters also represents the pure revelations of God that come from his head/fountain/or source then Nephi's description of the waters as filthy would represent the corruption or pollution of the pure revelations of God.  In fact we see this motif played out in Nephi's description of  the taking away or many plain and precious truths:

"Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God. 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. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men." (1 Nephi 13:25-27)


THE BOOK OF PURE OR LIVING WATERS


The beauty of the word Mormon being associated with Pure of Living Waters carries with it deep Israelite roots and teachings.  Perhaps by re-examining this precious word we will begin to look beyond the Title of "The Book of Mormon"  to see its as "The Book of Pure or Living Waters" as this record was written to restore many of those plain and precious truths. And those who call themselves by that name being like Alma's followers having immersed themselves into the Pure or Living Waters of God.

*** The paleo-Hebrew graphics used in this article were taken from the marvelous work done by Jeff Benner.  Please check out his work at ancient-hebrew.org

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

THE MYSTERY OF ALMA- THE HIDDEN THINGS OF GOD




The Prophet Alma and his son Alma the younger stand as pivotal figures in The Book of Mormon. The usage of the name Alma seems strange and has been a focal point that many critics of the Book of Mormon zone in on as the name in Hebrew (Almah) means a young maiden/woman.  As the word is connected with something feminine in gender it would be highly irregular to name a male Israelite with this particular rendition of the word Almah. While at a cursory glance this criticism may appear to apply, in truth the name Alma reveals a hidden mystery and the deep Israelite roots of the Book of Mormon.


It has always been my contention that many of the names for people and places in The Book of Mormon are the phonetic spellings of Hebrew words into English.  The name Alma is one such name/word.   As mentioned, the Hebrew word Almah means a young maiden/woman. The first mention of this phrase in the Torah/Old Testament is in Genesis 24:43 where Abraham's servant Eliezar finds the young maiden Rebekah:

"Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin (ALMAH) cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink..."

While in the King James Version the word was translated as virgin the more accurate translation would be a young maiden.  In Middle Eastern culture when young maidens were sent to a well or outside the home, the wearing of a veil was common.  Also the idea of children (both boys and girls) were considered to be under the covering/veil of their father.  Just as Almah is translated as young woman the word Elem is translated as young man or stripling.  The two words Almah and Elem share a common root as follows:






The connection between the two Hebrew words is not just in the description of a young man or woman, but of family members who come under the concealment or covering of their father. They both share the common base letters of Ayin- Lamed- Mem:




The base root Alam meaning something that is hidden or concealed. The beauty of the Book of Mormon is that in true poetic form, the text itself reveals the mystery of Alma's name using a poetic parallel and play on words:

 But the king was more wroth
and caused that Alma
should be cast out from among them
and sent his servants after him
that they might slay him.

But he fled from before them
and hid himself 
that they found him not
And he being concealed 
for many days did write
all the words which Abinadi had spoken.
(Mos:17:3-4)

The prophet writer of the Book of Mormon uses similar devices throughout the text so that his definitions of many words are actually couched in the poetic structure of the text itself-VERY ISRAELITE OF HIM!  The name Alma as we have it in The Book of Mormon is defined as something that is hidden or concealed.  With this in mind it makes one wonder what is being hidden or concealed in The Book of Alma-"The Book of the Hidden or Concealed".


AN EVEN GREATER MYSTERY



The mystery of Alma does not stop there.  As the root of his name is constructed from the letters Ayin-Lamed-Mem we find an even greater mystery.  As we discussed in the articles regarding the 72 Names of God  we find couched in the Book of Mormon not only an ancient practice of meditation/prayer as taught in the prophetic schools of ancient Israel, but we also found that these names were connected to the Angelic language of God as given to the Prophet Enoch. In existing traditions of Judaism to this day, these 72 names were also connected to Angelic beings/forces.  Of note we find two in particular:




Among the 72 Names of God which is equated to angelic beings/forces we find the name ALMA (Ayin- Lamed- Mem) as the fourth name which in arrangement stands next to the fifth name Mem-Hey-Shin (associated with the Prophet Moses).  In traditional Jewish practice the 4th name Ayin -Lamed- Mem is pronounced phonetically "AA(long a)- LAH-Me" (short e).  That the 72 names capture the names of God associated with angelic forces or beings finds a unique fulfillment in The Book of Mormon as both Moses and Alma were taken by the Hand of God and translated into Heaven-i.e. They were angelified:

"And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of.Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial." (Alma 45)

Just as in the prophetic arrangement of the 72 names, we see Moses and Alma side by side connected to the idea of being angels or translated beings. We see the beauty of this mystery even as the Prophet Alma himself declares:

"O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might for forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with a voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth."


Saturday, April 11, 2020

THE ROARING OF THE LIONS AND THE TONGUE OF ANGELS




"The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" 
(Amos 3:8)

In a prior article (see THE RESTORATION OF MIRACLES: THE BOOK OF MORMON AND THE 72 NAMES OF GOD)  we discussed the Israelite discipline of contemplative/meditative prayer as part of the prophetic teachings of Israel.  Among these teachings is the meditative practice known as calling on or upon THE NAME (YHVH).  References to this discipline have been recorded in many ancient texts such as The Sepher Yetzirah, The Bahir, The Zohar with many Jewish scholars pointing to the Prophet Enoch as the source of this great teaching.  While the 72 names of God are not names like Tom, Dick, or Harry, they were considered conduits through which the light of God is manifest in this world.

Among some of the oldest teachings preserved by the various traditions in Judaism regarding this discipline is a teaching often referred to as the 'Roaring of the Lions'.  This teaching is still to be found among various teachers such as Moses ben Nachman and Isaac Luria. This teaching is connected with the idea that both the voice of God and his angels are like unto a lion's roar. In some traditions it is referred to as the language of angels (mal'akim)  It is expressed by the prophet Amos wherein he declares, "The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?"

In the Israelite prophetic tradition, it was taught that the 'Roaring of the Lions" was connected to the 72 letter name of God (72 names x 3 letters each = 216 letters) and the prayer/meditative discipline connected with it.  Those disciples who walked the paths of the prophetic undertook this discipline to connect with Heaven. It was taught that when the names were pronounced as one was filled with the ruach or spirit that the power of God would then be made manifest to fulfill the will of God. In following the prophetic science we find that the 216 letter name is equated to the word gevurah (strength) whose numeric value is also 216 and with the word aryeh (lion) whose numeric value is also 216, thus yielding the spiritual equation or teaching called 'The Roaring of the Lions'.





The Pearl of Great Price and The Roaring of the Lions


As we read through the scriptures of the restoration, we often pass-over (no pun intended) some of the greatest of truths standing before our very eyes.  In the Pearl of Great Price we read the record of Moses regarding the Prophet Enoch and the establishment of Zion:

"And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the drivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him.” (Moses 7:13)

Here it is recorded that the "word" and the "power of the language" of the Prophet Enoch was so great that nations stood afar off, the earth trembled, and the mountains fled.  Hidden in plain site among the records of the restoration we find the same ancient teaching associated with Enoch that was passed down through the House of Israel regarding a "spiritual technology" given to the fathers by which they and those prophets of Israel connected with God and made manifest the powers of Heaven according to the principles of righteousness.


THE TONGUE OF ANGELS:


This ancient teaching is what came to be connected to the Israelite concept of "the tongue of Angels".  It was a gift and teaching open to all who sought to walk in the path of the ancients. It was this same teaching referred to by the Prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon. After explaining that we are to enter in by the gate, he explains,"For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost...And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?

He then goes on:

"Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a clove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure (heb. walk forward on the path) to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the away; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen." (2 Nephi 31)

After entering in by the gate we then find ourselves in the way.  It is here that the prophet Nephi once again touches on this ancient teaching known as the language of angels, the 72 letter name of God, aka the roaring of the lions:

"And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?

Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost (the record of heaven, the Ruach Elohiym) ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ (Hebrew code phrase: prayer and contemplative meditation); for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock (hebrew code phrase equated with prayer/meditation/ calling upon the name); wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark." (2 Nephi 32:1-4)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

THE DESTROYING ANGEL SHALL PASS YOU BY- THE BLESSINGS OF SHABBAT



"So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said."
(2 Chronicles 36:21)

For many years prior to the Lord calling the Prophet Jeremiah, the people and specifically their government had not observed the commandments of God. In doing so they brought about a covenant violation and left themselves exposed to impending judgments.  Because the rulers and subsequently the people left the God of Israel, they then found themselves without a covering of protection.  This resulted in national judgment; financial ruin, slavery, massive homelessness, and disease. It was then that God decreed that because they had not followed his commandments he would take them from the land and allow the land to remain empty for seventy years to accomplish a Sabbath rest for the land.

It seems that history has a way of repeating itself. The new restrictions that have been placed on the people during the COVID19 crisis is causing a ceasing of all regular activities and commerce around the world. For the first time in many years, people are staying home with their families. The number of automobiles and other transportation has decreased.  For the first time in decades the air quality in many urban areas is starting to greatly improve, fish are returning to once overused water ways, and people are actually being forced to spend real time with their families instead of running from one activity to another.  Strangely enough, while this ceasing has been imposed upon the people, it is also demonstrating the importance of the Sabbath day.

In western culture we often see the Sabbath as just a day of religious observance. While religious observance can be good, the observances can become a heavy burden and in some cases a day of work for not only the people but the religious leaders. We get the word Sabbath from the Hebrew word Shabbat which mean 'rest' or 'ceasing'.  But while the weekly sabbath was one day in seven for rest it was in actuality part of a much large cycle of rest and renewal that God instituted for his covenant people to follow in the respective covenant land grants that they occupy.

You see far more than just a religious observance, the Sabbath is itself a blessing because in our rest or ceasing we and our land become renewed. Our strength is restored and the land will again yield it's abundance.  It serves as mark upon God's people so that the destroying angel will pass us by.

GOD'S APPOINTED TIMES-CYCLES OF REST AND RENEWAL


Each week when we observe the Sabbath Day we are observing an Appointed Time.  The Feasts (or Appointed Times) of Israel are what are termed ‘High Sabbaths’.  Like the weekly Sabbath they are days specifically set apart by God for all his people to observe:

 “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.

Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” – (Leviticus 23:2-4)

The keeping or remembering (to both say and to do) the Appointed times falls under the commandment:

 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”- (Exodus 20:8-11)

Besides fulfilling the commandment to ‘remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’ the observance of God’s appointed times served as times for his people to come, appear before him, and call upon his name. In many ways the modern Mormon events of General Conferences and Solemn Assemblies echo back to the observance of these divine appointments.  Examples of the observance of God’s appointed times can be seen with Adam at Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai, Jacob and the Nephites at the Day of Atonement, King Benjamin at the Feast of Tabernacles, Christ at Passover, Christ at the Temple in Bountiful, Joseph Smith and the receipt of the plates at the Feast of Trumpets, Passover at the Kirtland Temple Dedication, among many others.

What are the specific Appointed times?


Besides the weekly Sabbath and the new moon of each month there are 7 High Holy Days appointed for all Israel to be observed through all their generations. There are Seven specifically appointed times divided into Three Seasons of Observance:

Appointed Times of Israel:

(Spring)

1. Passover (Pesach)
2. Unleavened Bread (Chag Ha Matzah)
3. First Fruits (Ha Bikkurim)

4. Pentecost (Shavuot)


(Fall)

5. Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah)
6. Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
7. Tabernacles (Sukkot)


What would be the purpose in observing the Appointed Times now?


Besides honoring God and fulfilling his commandments, the Lord warns his people of pending judgment soon to be poured out upon our nation and gives them instructions regarding his appointed times.  The Lord commands his people to call your solemn assemblies:

Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the Lord your God, and hear the word of the Lord concerning you— The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple; the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment; yea, upon all the nations that forget God, and upon all the ungodly among you. For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God.

Wherefore, prepare ye, prepare ye, O my people; sanctify yourselves; gather ye together, O ye people of my church, upon the land of Zion, all you that have not been commanded to tarry-go ye out from Babylon, be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord, call your solemn assemblies, and speak often one to another. And let every man call upon the name of the Lord. (D&C 133:1-6)

Through the mouth of his Servant Joseph Smith, God has declared a curse of judgment upon the nations that forget God and upon all the ungodly. As a result the eyes of ungodly Nations and peoples shall see the revelation of  the arm of the Lord in the experiencing of these judgments to their destruction to their salvation.  Oh, The Greatness and the Mercy of our God, for even in the midst of judgment and calamities, he remembers his people both Gentile, Remnant, and Jews in giving them divine instructions to prepare them for the days ahead:

1. Set yourselves apart by gathering together
2. Be clean
3. Call our solemn assemblies
4. Speak often to one another
5. Call upon the name of the Lord

GENERAL CONFERENCE AND THE APPOINTED TIMES OF ISRAEL


I find it interesting that each year general conference is held both in the Spring and in the Fall of the year- ironically very close or sometimes even on (depending on the year and the calendar) the Feasts of Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles).  We may not observe these appointed times according to the manner of the Jews, but the intent of our observance is no different-Appear before the Lord in Solemn Assemblies, Speak often to one another, and Call upon THE NAME of the Lord.

In the current pandemic that we are experiencing, the observance of the Sabbath Day and The Appointed Times carries great blessings and promises.  The blessings of observing the Sabbath are typified in God's instructions regarding the Observance of THE HIGHEST SABBATH IN ALL ISRAEL-YOM KIPPUR (The Day of Atonement):

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel of their sins!
Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.

‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’

“I will tell you why!” I respond.

“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?

This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.

You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?

Do you really think this will please the LORD?

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the LORD will answer.

‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!

(THEN COMES THE REALLY COOL PART AND THE BLESSING OF THE DAY OF ATONEMENT)

Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The LORD will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.

You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

“Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
Then the LORD will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the LORD, have spoken!”

(Isaiah 58)

Recently a Fast was declared.  In light of Isaiah's words the question we may want to ask of ourselves is what was the purpose of our fast, "To afflict our soul so God will give us our stuff (money, jobs, toys) back?  or "To sacrifice a portion of what we have so that another may have life"?

At this time of General Conference and The Coming Passover, let us remember the Sabbath Day and the instructions God gave to Israel through the Prophet Isaiah so that during this time of crisis and the potential economic aftershocks so that we can them claim the promises of the Sabbath that our, "light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.The LORD will guide you continually,giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes."

Let us remember that the blessing does not come from religious observance, but from taking the light we have received from God to bestow upon others.  We do this by freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned; lightening the burden of those who work for you, letting the oppressed go free, removing the chains that bind people, sharing your food with the hungry, and giving shelter to the homeless, giving clothes to those who need them, and not hiding from relatives who need your help.

As we observe General Conference this week, let us remember the true purposes and blessings of the Sabbath. In the trying times ahead, those who are healers on the Sabbath will find that their substance never diminishes and their light is never extinguished. Let us submit to God's rest and not be forced to rest like ancient Israel.




Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Importance of Covenant Intercessors and the Power of Oneness



"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." (Moses 7:18)

It happens to all of us as we walk in the course of our everyday lives-working, taking care of kids, doctors appointments, cleaning the house, grocery shopping- that we sometimes find ourselves underestimating the power and gift that we have been given in the Restoration of the Gospel.  If we take a moment and think about the great gift of light and truth we have received in The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, we really have been given betrothal gifts whose worth is far greater that the finest rubies and the purest gold.

Like God's judgment upon the generation of Noah, the Tower of Babel, the House of Israel, the Jaredites, and the Nephites we are about to see judgments of like severity poured out upon our Nation.  Even in the midst of the darkness of impending judgment there is the possibility of the light of salvation.  If our adversaries believe that they are being successful in extinguishing this light, they are grossly mistaken for while the light may be temporarily obscured, the pillar of fire which came from Heaven and dwelt upon a rock can never be extinguished. (1 Nephi 1:6).  In fact it is the same fire which enlivens every man, woman, and child within whom burns the Love of God and righteousness.

BECOMING COVENANT INTERCESSORS


The scriptures are filled with example after example of righteous men and women who walked in the Path of Covenant Intercessors like the Messiah.  Rather than choosing death, they choose life in taking upon them the name of Christ--they choosing repentance rather than destruction.  Make no mistake the judgments are sure, but like Moses and Israel there is an Exodus (both spiritual and physical) under the covering of the God of Israel is still available.  Before that day comes though, there must be people like the Nephi who have have walked in the path of God's covenant and obtained the Land of Promise.  There must be women like Deborah who rendered righteous judgment for all Israel before God.  There must people like the Brother of Jared who drew down the compassion of Heaven in the midst of judgment.

In order to obtain deliverance in times of trial, as a bride of Messiah we must return to our first love.  To do this we must identify ourselves as a Zion and become the covenant bride of the Messiah.  To do this we must follow the true "protocols" of Zion.

One Heart and One Mind


“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)

The idea of oneness has been pontificated on and speculated about by many scholars, religious leaders, and theologians.  As a result the doctrine of “Oneness” has been taken from its roots and been planted in a foreign soil of Western Greek Culture. Over the years I have heard many proclamations and discourses in my experience in Mormonism about “Being One.”  While there are many who cite Moses description of Zion in the Pearl of Great Price wherein he states that the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them they completely ignore the rest of his teachings to Ancient Israel on how to be of one heart and one mind.  They ignore the commandments given to Israel on how to dwell in righteousness. They neglect the laws God gave to Moses to establish a society with no poor among them.

It only takes us two seconds to turn on the news and witness with our eyes the reality that we are living in the latter days.  We are witnessing curses being poured out and our children being taken over by a foreign culture.  We are receiving the curses of the covenant and in our ignorance and blindness we stand bewildered not knowing what to do as the chains of bondage wrap themselves ever tighter around us and our families. The truth is that Zion is not a mystery.  God foreknew our situation and preserved his word to us in these latter days:

 “In the future (latter days), when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations (gentiles) to which the LORD your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions.” (Deuteronomy 30:1)

God revealed to Moses that Israel would not be faithful in keeping his instructions.  Moses knew that we would be scattered to the ends of the earth.  We would be found living among nations that did not know the God of Israel and in conditions where we would forget his covenant instructions that he not only gave to all Israel that stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, but to all their future generations yet unborn.  Realizing this predicament God revealed:

“If at that time you and your children return to the LORD your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you.” (Deuteronomy 30: 2-3)

This promise that God revealed to Moses is the backbone of the Great and Marvelous Work wherein God will remember his promises he made to the Fathers and restore the House of Israel.

“Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the LORD your God will gather you from there and bring you back again. The LORD your God will return you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will possess that land again. Then he will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors!  The LORD your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live! (Deuteronomy 30:4-6)

Pay close attention to these words because they are the “Heart” of Oneness with God and each other.  God is making his case very clear to his people.  He is God.  We are to follow his instructions.  In doing so he will change our hearts (Heb: Thoughts and desires) so that we may be one (echad) and live.  To an Israelite, this should cite our minds to the greatest commandment given by God, the Shema:  
          
“Hear (Listen and Obey), O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (echad). You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)


DWELLING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS:



For a people to be Zion they must dwell in righteousness. This expression contains a two fold meaning that gives us additional information on how to be Zion. If this characteristic was important enough to be used in Moses’ description of Enoch’s Zion then perhaps it would help us to understand what righteousness is and what it means to dwell in righteousness.

In describing Enoch’s Zion Moses stated:

“And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7: 16-18)

The phrase “dwelt in righteousness” although simple is packed with meaning. To understand what it means to dwell in righteousness we must understand what righteousness is from a Hebraic point of view.  

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word. Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments. My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law (Torah).” (Psalms 119: 5-9)

To an Israelite his walk with God is the path.  Just as the Hebrew word resha (wicked) carries the meaning of departing from God’s path, the Hebrew word tzadik (righteous) carries of the meaning of walking in God’s path.  God’s commandments and instructions are the path of righteousness.  To uphold, correctly interpret, protect, and carry out God’s commandments is righteousness.

Righteousness is not some mystical state of bliss but a condition of being where people establish and carry out God’s commandments or laws amongst them.  In describing who would dwell in the holy hill and in the presence of God’s tabernacle, King David demonstrates God’s definition of righteousness as condition, attitude, and most importantly actions:

 “ LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” (Psalms 15)


One God, One Law, One People


Unity or Oneness comes from accepting God as our King and his laws as our standard.  The people are of one heart because their thoughts are centered on him and the embracing of his instructions given in the commandments on Sinai and the Sermon on the Mount.  The people become of one mind because their will is to carry out or implement God's instructions.  The oneness comes from the combined oneness of our desire.  The success of the Nephites in the Land of Bountiful lay in the unity of desire (kavanah).  In offering their desire, Heaven and Earth once again connected.

By returning (teshuvah-repentance) to the God of Israel and his commandments that he delivered to Israel not only to say them, but to do them in the here and now we will obtain the covenant blessings that will overturn the curses coming upon us.  Rather than destruction we will have prosperity.  Rather than losing our children to a foreign culture we will establish an everlasting inheritance in the land to our God.

 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’

It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’

No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.

For I command you this day to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.   (Deuteronomy 30: 10-16)





Sunday, March 22, 2020

What Does it Mean to Watch and Pray Always




"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him." (3 Nephi 18:15)

For years we have heard the admonition to "watch and pray always".  At first glance it would seem that we are being told to "be on the lookout and pray always" so that you enter not into temptation.  On the surface level the admonition sounds simple enough, but then arises the question, "How do I watch and pray always?"  I mean I have to go to work.  Life is busy and I have things to do. I have children to take care of, etc, etc. 

In order to better understand the admonition and how to "watch and pray always", it is helpful to understand what the words mean from an Israelite perspective.  The word 'watch' is often translated from the Hebrew words shamar .  In context the word shamar means to guard or to observe something and is the same word wherein we get the admonition of "Keep (shamar-guard/observe my commandments).   In the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew we find that this is the word used by the Messiah in his admonition as found in Matthew 26:41, "Watch (shamar-guard/observe) and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

So the question then comes, "How do I Guard/Observe and Pray Always".....  In cultural context not only is the phrase connected with the concept of the respective "watches" when guards were placed around strategic areas of the city or temple to alert the city should an enemy approach, but it also became culturally connected with practices of walking with God and "how" we are to pray always:

Israelite Tools For Guarding


Practicing The Presence:

One of the first principles of  "the watch" was the idea that we are practicing our duties as a "watcher" in the presence of God.  The duties of a watcher entailed not only being physically and mentally prepared, but also ever vigilant in their duties to guard the people of God and to be ever ready to carry out the commands of the King. One of the disciplines taught came to be known in later Jewish circles as "practicing the presence". The Prophets of Israel walked in the discipline of living/practicing the presence of God.  This discipline was taught to their students as in doing so they began to come out from their spiritual hiding places, experience their nakedness before God, and walk in the path of his presence in this world.  Their acknowledgment of God's presence in their heart (thoughts) and in the world around them was a key discipline by which they lived and governed their lives and in doing so unleashed a fundamental power of transformation and the utter destruction of doubt/unbelief.

The idea is that God is in all things and through all things-both good and bad. It was not sufficient that we simply believe in God.  We must learn to see him and his presence in all things on this earth- both the good and the bad.  In doing so we begin to come out from our hiding places.  In doing so we begin to know God.  This is why both in ancient Israel and even in the history of the restoration, men would mark their homes, their tools, their door frames, etc with the outward phrase, "Holiness To The Lord (YHVH)" or other instruments containing scriptures (i.e. mezuzah) because whether in life or death, sin or obedience, the acknowledgment of the presence of God in all things brought the person out from under the power and shame produced by our adversary and back into the presence of God and the path of true healing and redemption.  By putting up signposts (whether physical or spiritual) we open ourselves to the divine presence- we begin both outwardly and inwardly acknowledge his living presence or eye.  It was not the question of "Why bad things happen to good people" or the declaration that  "Prosperity follows the Righteous", but that the presence of God fills the whole earth in the here and now.  In fact we walk in it daily and with every breath we breathe.

In other words, we wake up to the presence of God each morning even as we lie down in his arms each night.  We go to work or school each day as if the presence of God is with us.  We administer to our loved ones and to the stranger on the street as if before the presence of God.  We change diapers, we clean toilets, we nurse our babies, we take out the garbage, etc etc all as if we are continually before the presence of God in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. In doing so the spiritual heart of man is revealed even as the carnal man begins to fall away before his all searching eye.

This discipline of practicing or acknowledging that we live continually in the presence of God is also demonstrated by the teaching of the "eye" of God.  The Prophet Jacob declares:

"O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood." (2 Nephi 9:44)

and

"But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God." (Jacob 2:10)

Israelite Meditation:


The ancient art of the Prophets was composed of disciplines designed to bring the disciple to a knowledge of God (to know in Hebrew is to experience).  The disciplines were comprised of practises that schooled the disciple's daily habits and practises which ultimately led to the correction of the heart.  The correction of the Heart is what was known as walking after the order or pattern of the small face of God or as is also communicated as The Only Begotten.  When the heart is made whole the spirit of man is elevated and vibrates in concert with the Spirit of God (YHVH).  When a group of people heal their collective heart the Kingdom of God is restored to the people.  It is our direct experience (knowledge/knowing) that leads us down the path of darkness or the path of light.  Unless we enter our experiences with God and man with a corrected and healed heart, we will continue to walk in the footsteps of the natural man and woman, who are an enemy to God. As we begin to experience life with a healed and corrected heart, true beauty will follow.  As we create the beauty of God here on earth, the Kingdom of God is on Earth as it is in Heaven.

The phrase "watch and pray always" is also connected with an ancient meditative practice taught in the School of the Prophets called Hitbodedut ( meditative isolation or separation) wherein the disciple begins to cleanse the mind by separating from the distracting thoughts and distractions going on around us or in our heads (sometimes called mental clutter or the monkey mind). The ancient meditation and prayer teachings of Israel are a much neglected topic that adds great depth of understanding to the words of the the Prophets when they made such statements as, "Calling upon the Name" or "Watching and Pray Always", and "Ask, Seek, and Knock".

When the mind becomes separated from this sensory clutter we begin to hear the voice of God that pierces the hearts of man. When the prophets came before God in prayer they detached from the sensations and sensory clutter of the world and their bodies and mind became quiet and still.  Once they reached this quietness of soul, they begin to reach a condition of spiritual balance wherein the rhythm of the opposing polar thoughts and forces are neutralized and the path of spiritual connection is open.  The idea of asking, seeking, and knocking does not mean that we repetitively hound God until we get what we want but that we first find the place of quietness, then ask with our desire or intention.  It is then that the prophet descended into the klipot/the veil/the internal barrier into the darkness wherein they reached a point of almost total consumption by the darkness wherein they called upon the Name of YHVH (knocking) whereon they were then brought into the light.

These meditative disciplines taught in the ancient Schools of the Prophets were deeply connected with disciplines of meditating upon the name YHVH, The Aleph Prayer, the 72 Names of God, and the creative prayer of the 42 letters in the first chapter of Genesis (sometimes called the prayer of creation) which later came to be expressed in a prayer called The Ana Bekoach.

The idea of "watching" being connected with a meditative discipline appears very foreign to our western gentile culture, but to an ancient Israelite culture prayer and meditation were intricately connected.  Praying or meditating upon the names of God was a common practice taught in the Ancient School of the Prophets. The Power of the Holy Names of God is a discipline found within many of the remaining traditions of the House of Israel to this day.  Some choose to meditate upon the name YHVH or El Shaddai as a recitation, repetition, or for lack of a better word a mantra of prayer to focus their prayers of desire through and to God.  One of the most ancient disciplines was the specific meditation upon letters of the Hebrew Alephbet (alphabet) wherein it was taught lay certain spiritual devices that caused the spirit of man to resonate with the Spirit of God.  One such meditation was upon the Letter Aleph in the Hebrew Alephbet:



The Aleph represented the oneness of God, his throne, and reaches into what is termed Worlds Without End (Ayin Soph).  It's expression as a symbol, Aleph represents the organization of order or creation out of chaos. It represents the sacred breath being breathed into Adam and the first expression he uttered. It is the letter upon which when intentionally contemplated and meditated would draw Heaven and Earth together; connecting the worlds above with this world down below.  The discipline of the Aleph Prayer was passed down in some surviving traditions of Judaism and even then only passed on by word of mouth.  It was taught that by employing the prayer or meditation upon the Aleph one's voice of pure desire would ascend to Heaven before the sacred throne. It was considered a part of a very sacred discipline of prayer.

The letter Aleph while one is composed of three elements of letters in its outward representation. Aleph Lamed Peh.  Since man was fallen and unclean he could not enter directly into the presence of God. In order to connect with God the Aleph Prayer or Meditation was by tradition the manner by which fire from Heaven was called down to consume the sacrifice of which prayer was an integral part.   The Meditation or recitation of this ancient prayer was vocalized by praying/meditating/ mantra-ing the outward letters that composed the ALEPH in the reverse fashion as follows:


PEH LEH EL



In light of this teaching, it would would be ironic if there was not some connection to the restoration of the Gospel.  As it so happens, Joseph Smith stated, "The grand key word was the first word Adam spoke and is a word of supplication...It is that key word to which the heavens is opened." (Joseph Smith, The Journals of William Clayton, June 15, 1844)

This vocal expression of prayer should have a special significance to older Mormons who have walked in the House of the Lord.  Unfortunately, many of the younger generation are not familiar with the expression, but there are many who seek for God to hear the words that their mouths produce.

It was taught anciently that the Prayer or Mediation upon the Aleph brought about a condition of the heart of oneness with God wherein true connection was established and Heaven and Earth Connected. This discipline among many other ancient disciplines of prayer/meditation were also preserved but were only taught among certain traditions within Judaism. In these traditions, it was taught that the language of God was a not only an instrument of creation wherein creation was sung into existence, but it was also an instrument of transformation, bonding, and unity for man in this world as well.In this state, the mind of God dwelt in the vessel of man and as such the living soul became a living Urim and Thummim.

THE FIRES OF THE WATCHERS


During the hours of greatest darkness the watchers had the duty to maintain the fires that were used to provide light to the occupants of the city and to keep the city safe.  The idea of maintaining the fire is connected with the Hebrew Letter Shin:




As one of the mother letters, Shin represents the celestial fires of that proceed forth from the throne of God carrying with it revelations of wisdom, understand, knowledge, power, and mercy of God.  In Israelite priestly tradition the Levites and sons of Aaron acted as watchers before the Throne of God.  Their duty was to maintain the oil in the lamps and to preserve not only the sacrificial fires but the fires that lit the menorah which represented the Tree of Life.  As preservers of the light, we are not only meant to guard but also to bestow the light upon all Israel. 

Those who seek to watch and pray always must be on their guards by implementing the same tools as those prophets of old who stood as watchers/guards over the House of Israel.  We must practice the presence of God in our daily lives, we must draw our hearts in contemplative meditation on God, and we must preserve the celestial fire of revelation in the darkest hours so that the enemy does not come upon us unawares.