Monday, December 7, 2015

The Heart of the Book of Mormon - The Heart of the Covenant (Part 2)

"For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.” (Proverbs 2:6-9)

Covenant Love - The Ember from the Altar of God

It might be strange for our American culture to understand, but the Book of Leviticus which is the Heart of God's covenant with Israel, is actually a Book Regarding the Love of God:

"Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)

When God called to Israel from Mt. Sinai, or the tabernacle in the Wilderness, or his abode in the Heavens to the People of Nephi gathered at the temple it was a call to embrace eternal love as only can be endowed by the Spirit of God. It was a call to transcend the mortal and to step onto the journey of ascension along the ladder seen in vision by Jacob/Israel the man.

After Jesus Christ reveals the image of the state of blessed-righteous and holiness, He begins to draw the minds of the body of Israel gathered at the temple back to the covenant he had made with the Fathers in Ancient Israel by explaining the principles/commandments upon which Zion - the sacred space is to be established.  In doing so he fulfills the Law given to Moses or in Hebraic understanding he teaches them the correct interpretation and performance of the commandments that were originally given to the Fathers.

Jesus A Prophet Like unto Moses

The scriptures reveal many similarities between Moses and Jesus.  This should come as no surprise as he is described in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon as the prophet like unto Moses:
“And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.”  (1 Nephi 22:20)

Those like Lehi and Nephi  who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah would therefore be looking for someone “like Moses” who would speak in the name of God (YHVH) and follow his commands.  Like Moses he would be the mediator of the Covenant between God and the House of Israel.

The covenant is a continuation of the covenant God made with the Fathers.   It was a marriage covenant between God and Israel.  Even as Israel (both Northern and Southern Kingdom) broke the covenant it was a necessity for the covenant to be renewed.   Jesus Christ did not come to do away with the former covenant and mediate a brand new covenant but to renew and restore the same covenant relationship he made with the Fathers.

When God spoke with Israel he only spoke the ten commandments to them before the people pled with Moses to not let God speak with them, but that Moses should go up to hear and relate the words of God to the people. (Exodus 20:19)  Jesus is like Moses in that he delivered the words his Father gave him and instructed the people concerning Torah with authority, “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mat 7:29)

Just like Moses, Jesus ascended a mountain and taught the commandmets of God  to the people.  Unfortunately it has been portrayed by modern Christianity that his word contradicted Moses or was given as a different law.  For example it is generally taught that Moses taught an "eye for an eye" and Jesus taught "turn the other cheek".  It is believed that Moses taught  "hate your enemy" and Jesus  taught to "love your enemy."  While at first glance it may seem that these are contradictions, from an Israelite point of view we find that they are actually NOT contradictions at all.  Jesus was the law giver who gave God’s instructions to Moses:

“And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.  Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled (correctly interpreted) that was given unto Moses. Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.” (3 Nephi 15:3-5)

Jesus himself was very clear that He was the prophet like unto Moses and that he and Moses were in agreement, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47)

Just as we see modern LDS Pharisees exerting their authority to solely interpret scripture in favor of their re-written history and traditions, so too did the Pharisees of Jesus day.  Jesus directly  challenged their authority and their corporate interpretations.

Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:18)

The instructions given by Christ to the Jews and the Nephites are in large part a commentary on the Books of Moses.  As the adversary has gone to great lengths to convince people that these books are old, out dated, archaic and “done away” the words of the Christ in his respective Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at Bountiful are given as direct instructions on how to fulfill the terms of the Covenant given to Israel and renewed through him.

Loving God and Your Neighbor

There are those who believe that Jesus either changed or threw out the commandments thereby reducing them to just two- Love God and Love your neighbor:

“One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?

 Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

This statement however is only a restatement of the Shema which is the pinnacle of God’s Instructions as given to Moses and is recited by known and recited by every Israelite to this day:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)

The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is found in Leviticus 19:17-18
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”

The teachings of Jesus revealed the hypocrisy and priestcraft of the Pharisees.  By creating burdens of traditions and customs they transformed God’s instructions  as plainly taught by Moses into a weight too heavy to be born. They attempted to achieve righteousness through their check list of customs, performances, and ordinances.   In his Sermons, Jesus was bringing an end to the man made performances and ordinances by which people carried out the commandments he delivered to Moses at Sinai.  In doing so, he restored the Law to it’s proper interpretation and understanding—i.e. he fulfilled it and not one dotting of an I or crossing of a T had passed from the Law.

A Bond Servant of God - An Eye for An Eye—and other Laws

Isolated from the covenant Christ revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai, the teachings of the sermon at the temple in the land of Bountiful can easily be taken out of context and twisted into a body of law with no context to reference.  When taken in the context of the covenant given at Sinai, his words become clear as they explain the message he was trying to convey--As a Nation of Kings and Priests to God we are the bond servants of God. We see this relationship demonstrated by the greatest of all- Jesus Christ in humility washing the feet of his disciples- the work of a bond servant.  A bond servant in Israel was someone who was purchased at a price.  The servant was the property of the Master.  His will was not his own and retribution for injustice could only be through the desire and will of his Master.  With this image in mind, the teachings of "An eye for an eye" become plain as they are portrayed in their context:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” ( Matthew 5:38-45)

There are those who cite the above passage to argue that in making the statements above Jesus was changing the law to a higher law.  To understand these passages one must know and appreciate the Torah of Moses to comprehend the teaching.  For example, in citing "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" he is referring to Exodus 21:20-27 that refers to the treatment of and behavior of bond servants.

Jesus is telling His disciples that if they belong to God (YHVH) then like a bond servant who is owned by God they must look to HIM for their justice and that they do not need to seek retribution or vengeance.   Like a bondservant we are to look to our Master for justice.  In declaring this teaching Jesus was not destroying the Torah of Moses but bringing them back to the heart of the covenant and restoring something that was always there in the commandments he gave to Moses.  By understanding that this teaching was given in reference to the words in Exodus he was explaining to them how he wanted them to see themselves in their relationship to him, that God was their Master , Judge, and protector.  He was teaching them how to fulfill (correctly interpret and perform) the laws that were already given so long ago.

Jesus Christ was blameless and innocent.  He did not deserve to be judged , hurt, and killed. Just as He came as a bond servant,  he did not seek his own will but the will of his Master. We as disciples must seek to do the will of our Master and walk in that relationship wherein he declares, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

With this in mind let us examine a very interesting statement made by Jesus, “ You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  Strangely this teaching to “hate your enemy” is not found in the written Books of Moses.  The statement would fall under the category of  performances (ma’asim) and ordinances (takanot) of the Law of Moses that developed over time.  It has been found among other writings (not the Torah) and the Essene Community as follows:

Loving and hating brethren; and duty to YAHWEH

“And these are the regulations of conduct for every man that would seek the inner vision in these times, touching what he is to love and what he is to hate.

He is to bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill repute, and to be minded to keep in seclusion from them. He is to leave it to them to pursue wealth and mercenary gain, like servants at the mercy of their masters or wretches truckling to a despot.” (Manual of Discipline 9)

The Torah of Moses always taught that we should show kindness to an enemy when given the opportunity, “If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has strayed away, take it back to its owner. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.” (Exodus 23:4-5)

As bond servants of Christ we are to follow the Torah of Moses and love our enemies and let God take care of the rest. In his sermons Jesus was pointing out that the different sects of Judaism were requiring things not specifically prescribed by the Torah of Moses.  They were neglecting  the “weightier” matters of the God's Commandments – justice, mercy, and faith. His words were meant to restore the understanding of the teachings and instructions originally delivered to Israel at Sinai.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot (inferior), you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell (Matthew 5-21-22)

Here we see the depth of the Messiah’s instructions regarding the law of, “Thou shalt not commit murder.”  God cares about our heart and not just outward acts and appearances.   If we were to take the traditional Christian view that the Law of Moses was thrown out then a problem presents itself- As long as I don’t get angry with you, consider you an idiot, or curse you I am now totally allowed to commit pre-meditated murder.   God gave many instructions to Israel in the Torah of Moses to clarify the commandment of “thou shalt not commit murder”.  The commandment given at Sinai is the law and Jesus Christ’s instructions at Sinai teach us how to fufill that law by establishing the depth/intent  of that commandment.

When the Savior employed the phrase, “you have heard it said” in the New Testament or “You have heard it written” he is engaging a classical expression that introduces instructions from the Torah Beginning here and throughout the following section of the Sermon on the Mount, Yahusha uses a formulaic expression to introduce Torah instructions.  He is referring to the scriptures that both the Jews in Israel and the Nephites on this continents were familiar with as found in Exodus 20:13, "you shall not murder."  When Jesus pronounces, "but I say unto you...", he is properly interpreting the deeper meaning of these commandments found in the Torah of Moses.

Now, the sixth commandment, "do not murder," has a a different meaning than the translation often rendered “thou shalt not kill.”  The Hebrew word is ratsach, means premeditated murder."  It is talking about the planned and intentional taking of a man's life without sufficient cause.  It does not mean "put to death" as in reference to capital punishment.  There are situations when "putting someone to death" is the right thing to do such as in the case of certain "capital" crimes, such as premeditated murder, adultery, rape, kidnapping and the like.  In proper context the commandment is against premeditated homicide.

To fulfill (properly interpret and demonstrate) this commandment, the Savior gives his authoritative explanation of the commandment, “But I say unto you...."   Notice that Jesus does not nullify this commandment.  He does not tell his disciples that this commandment is no longer applicable. He does not "do away with" the commandment prohibiting premeditated murder.  Instead, he reveals the depth and intent of the command and how we should fulfill it by not even be angry with your brother without a cause.  Just as it would be sin to kill your brother without a just cause, likewise it is sin to be angry with your brother without a just cause.  And this is the correct interpretation of the sixth commandment.

Revealing the intimacy or depth of his interpretation he also states it is wrong to say "raca" or "you fool/idiot" to your brother.  His words clarify the Hebrew concept of lashon hara or “the evil tongue”. It  reveals the slippery slope of  name calling and character assassination when we are angry with someone.  His teaching explains that the sixth commandment forbids this kind of speech, because in many ways the evil tongue like premeditated murder cannot be undone once the act is committed.
 In Hebraic thought He is drawing our hearts to the second  great commandment to “love your brother like unto yourself, “You must not walk about as a slanderer among your people. You must not stand idly by when your neighbor's life is at stake. I am Yahuwah.  You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him.  You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:16-18).

Slander, hatred, vengeance and bearing a grudge are all precursors that lead to violence and murder. In putting the Saviors words back into their correct Torah context, these behaviors are implicitly forbidden to lead us to, “you must love your neighbor as yourself."

This is why it is so important to immediately take care of a situation in which you are angry with your brother or your brother is angry with you.  Drop everything you are doing, including offering up prayers and gifts to God, and do what you can to resolve the conflict.  The seed of anger allowed to take root in the heart leads to premeditated murder whether physical, spiritual, or reputation.

Free Yourself From Your Anger and Your Enemy

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.  (Matthew:  5:23-26)

Related to both murder and anger is the problem of an unresolved conflict with a brother or sister.  It is  quite typical that an unresolved issue between you and your brother that leads one to anger, and even murder.  Two principles are being addressed here,  the first is of an existing issue or disagreement  a brother still has with you.  The second is a brother who becomes an adversary who is looking to exact punishment on you for your offense against him.

The sacrifice being brought to the alter is a reference to the fellowship offering one brings to God as a gesture of thanks and request for divine favor.  As Jesus points out, one cannot stand in proper fellowship with God when there is an unresolved problem with a brother therefore one should first reconcile his problem with his brother and then can come before God with a pure heart to fellowship with Him.

The Book of Proverbs speaks to the issue of an adversary having something against you is one of the teachings Jesus is reiterating to his disciples. In dealing with a situation where you have not kept your word with your brother, the teachings of wisdom states:

 “My child, if you have put up security for a friend’s debt or agreed to guarantee the debt of a stranger—if you have trapped yourself by your agreement and are caught by what you said—follow my advice and save yourself, for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy. Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased. Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do. Save yourself like a gazelle escaping from a hunter, like a bird fleeing from a net.”  (Proverbs 6:1-5)

Just as the individual in this scripture finds them self in a position of indebtedness to his brother because he has made a vow or promise which he either has not or cannot perform, Jesus teaches us to do all we can to make right the wrong we have done to our brother before it leads to judgment, guilt, and prison.

Jesus is teaching in the Sermon on the Mount/ Temple that we need to correctly discern.  He draws our attention to the "letter of the Law" or “that which is written”.  He then goes on to explain the "spirit of the Law" or what is termed Halacha which is His authoritative instruction and interpretation of the Law.  The Halacha or "spirit of the Law" reveals the Lord’s interpretation and explanation of the meaning of the Law, but it does NOT nullify “that which is written”.  His words teach us how to interpret and carryout the commandments given by God in a manner that fills and writes his words in our  heart while upholding the words he engraved on the tablets of stone upon which his throne (The Ark of the Covenant) sits.

It seems strange to many that the Lord would go to such great lengths to illustrate what at first glance would seem "sundry" laws.  If we really step back and think about his instructions as a handbook for defining and creating covenant love with God and with our brother, then in reality what we have received is God's instructions on receiving grace (hesed) - or Covenant Love.  It is these instructions that give us the sayings that we may know how to worship and what we worship thereby growing from grace (hesed) to grace (hesed) receiving grace (hesed) for grace (hesed).

Grace = Hesed = Covenant Love

We worship the image we conform to. As a disciple, if we love God we practice and conform to the image (commandments) of covenant love given at the Sermon at the Temple. As we practice the instructions of covenant love, we create covenant love, and covenant love grows exponentially.  As we worship God in covenant love by keeping his commandments and love our neighbor according to the instructions of covenant love given by Christ, we create the sacred space of Zion.  In our weakness and desire to personify covenant love we reach up to heaven.  In response to this divine spark, the portals of Heaven open and the life giving fire that proceeds forth from the Altar of God in Heaven descend upon us in strength to become one with the spark that we offer upon the altar here on earth-like attracting like even, the earthly pattern reflecting the heavenly.

Part 3: The Coal that lights the Fire, The Altar of Mighty Prayer, and The Sacred Promises of the Messiah

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Heart of the Book of Mormon - The Heart of the Covenant (Part 1)

"There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity." (Washington Irving)

Within the writings of the prophet Nephi who was called by the voice of Christ from among the masses that had gathered at the Temple in the Land of Bountiful is a sacred heart.  This sacred and secret vault contains hidden within it a spark of heavenly fire taken directly from the altar that burns both night and day before the throne of our God.  Over time this spark of heavenly fire has been forgotten, but it has not grown cold-for that which comes from the realms of the eternal God can never be dimmed by time or the frail attendance of man. In the days of our prosperity we have lived in convenient forgetfulness seeking comfort from strange fire only to find that upon awakening to our awful situation we are cold and dark.  It is for this time of awakening that this spark of Heaven has been preserved. May we lay hold upon this sacred spark, counting all other counterfeits as dross and no worth, to approach the throne of Heaven and once again make an offering in righteousness-and from the fire of this offering in the Zion of our God may all Israel re-kindle their torches to stand again as lights to all the world.

3 Nephi - Opening the Sacred Vault - The Sacred Heart of God

Just as the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra - And He called) is the Heart of the Torah (Five Books of Moses) the Book of Third Nephi is the Heart of the Covenant of the Book of Mormon.  Contained within this Heart is the Express Image of God. Unlike Leviticus which contains the carnal or ritualistic pattern of God's Image, the Heart of Third Nephi is a first hand witness and testimony of a righteous branch of Israel who experienced a Day of Atonement and the presence of God restored among them- even Zion. Not recorded since the days of Sinai, had a group of people experienced the rushing of the Ruach Ha Kodesh (The Holy Spirit) filling them with life and the mind of God. It was a day when the presence of angelic holy ones was restored and the true tabernacle of God stood in the midst of a camp of Israelites being declared and marked as holy to the God of Israel.

Opening the Heart - It Begins with a Call

Holiness and Righteousness begins with a call.  As God called to Moses out of the tabernacle in the wilderness to establish a holy and upright people, Third Nephi begins with a sacred call of the voice of God out of Heaven to his people-a call that did cause their hearts to burn (sacred fire):

“And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.” (3 Nephi 11:3)

What was the Call? An Invitation to Covenant

"Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him." (3 Nephi 11:7)

The tabernacle of God descended from Heaven and stood in the midst of a camp of Israel.  The command given by Heaven that did pierce their soul-HEAR HIM.

Every Israelite who heard that voice understood the command that was being given to them.  It was the same command given to their Fathers, " Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)


"And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.

And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning."(3 Nephi 11:8-11)

The name of God was revealed.  The tabernacle of God once again walked and dwelt among man. The womb of righteousness and holiness was being established.  Eden had been remembered even as Heaven and Earth became one among them. Where ancient Israel had had fallen short at Sinai  a righteous branch of Israel had risen to partake of the blessings God had promised to the Fathers (Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph).

The Name of God Revealed-Establishing the Order of the King-

Every Kingdom has a King and the people who are called by the name of the King and who are protected under his rule must take upon the name (commandments, character, and attributes) of their King.  The Order of the King commences as he issues his royal decrees.  Those who would be called by the name of the King demonstrate their change of heart or believing loyalty to him by immersion into living waters, the living grace of the God.

"And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.

And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one. And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been." (3 Nephi 11:22-28)

Once the decree of the King of Israel had been given, now the confirmation of the decree is affirmed:

 "And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them." (3 Nephi 11:32-36)

The Foundation of Holiness had been established- all thing converging in the Son of God. It is the Key to unlocking the vault that contains the fire.  The Messiah of Israel is the covenant link between Heaven and Earth. He is the express image and tabernacle of God.  Believing loyalty (faith) to HIM, His Commandments, character, and attributes is they key to unlock the heart of the covenant that contains the spark of heavenly fire.

The King of Israel Declares the Conditions of Holiness- Our Divine Picture

What is Holiness? Holiness (kadosh) can mean not only “set apart” from something but also “set apart” to something. It is a positive concept, an inspiration and a goal associated with God’s nature and his desire for man. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  Holiness is the pattern God established for us to create and exemplify.  In regard to being a kingdom of priests is describes the condition of being blessed. In one sense holiness is what a life of Godliness is like.  Leviticus like 3 Nephi gives us a picture of the life of Godliness and the creation of sacred space.

The use of Hebraic poetic parallelism can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) describe the condition of Holiness or the state of “Blessed”.

Blessed [are] the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed [are] they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed [are] the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
Blessed [are] the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.  
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake/pursue righteousness:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in Spirit = Meek

The word poor as used in Luke 4:18 is a quote from Isaiah 61:1.  The Hebrew word used is 'ânâv and means meek. In Hebraic thought "poor in spirit" means having nothing to offer God, and thus meek and humble, the opposite of  self-righteousness.  Numbers 12:3 uses the first of these to describe Moses as the meekest man on earth- there is no insinuation as to Moses' financial status or state of poverty.  Humility is action or discipline. It is not an outward act or performance of self-deprecation- “I am not worthy” cry, cry, cry. Humility was an active state of mind and being where the will of the servant has been yielded to the will of the Master.

To mourn = to hunger and thirst for righteousness

"Blessed are those that mourn", but how can mourning for the dead be a blessed state?  Mourning in the Psalms ( Psalms 119:136; 42:9; 43:2; 38:6) was often associated with grieving over personal sin, national sin, oppression from an enemy, over injustice, or over lack of respect for God's commandments. In this context the corresponding parallel in the Sermon at the Temple explains it perfectly, the mourners are "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost- the presence and mind of God.

We see an example of this type of mourning with Captain Moroni as he engages in the ritual of K’riah or the rending of his garments.  The ritual of the k'riah is often performed at a funeral in traditional Judaism.  It is an outward form of mourning that is reminiscent of a deeper stirring of the heart.

Captain Moroni's rending of his garments and is an act of mourning or hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

“11 And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.
 12 And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole…
19 And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:
 20 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

 21 And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.” (Moroni 46)

Comforted = filled/satisfied

These mourners and 'hungerers' will be 'filled'. One meaning of filled', would be 'satisfied' as when justice is seen to be done, when the wicked no longer prosper and the righteous are not oppressed. 3 Nephi 12 makes an interesting addition, “for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost- Ruach ha Kodesh.  Righteous Judgment (the balance between justice and mercy) is done when the Holy Ghost or mind of God is in the person and among the people.

Merciful = pure in heart

"Pure in heart" and "peacemakers" are both phrases that occur only here in the NT. The pure in heart according to Psalm 24:4 and Proverbs 20:9 are those without sin/rebellion or who engage in righteous or upright actions. The actual phrase "pure in heart" occurs also in Psalm 73:1, cf. Psalm 34:19, but comes primarily from Psalm 24:3-4

**In these two be-attitudes we are given to understand the condition between Justice and Mercy. See Alma 42: 19-27 for a re-statement of this eternal balance.

Peacemakers = persecuted/pursue righteousness

The “peacemakers” shall be called the “sons of God”.  Peace (Shalom) is a being at one with someone or in a covenant relationship with someone. The Hebrew underlying "son of” may also mean someone who acts according to the commandments, character, and attributes of person of which he is a son. Thus, a "son of peace" exhibits the commandments, character, and attributes of the author of the covenant.   He is a "son of God"with the image of God engraven in his countenance. Here God's character is that of a 'peacemaker' and the true disciple acts similarly and is called both a son of God and pursues peace-a condition of oneness with God/Christ.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Book of Mormon – A Covenant Roadmap to Zion (Part 2A)

Words of Mormon, Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman – The Exodus of the Book of Mormon - The Second Pillar of Our Covenant Relationship

From the Words of Mormon to the Records of Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman we find the second pillar of the covenant relationship in the Book of Mormon.   The account begins with an exodus of King Benjamin's Father King Mosiah who led a remnant of the Nephites on an Exodus on the eve of the destruction of the Nephites to a remnant of Jacob- The people of Zarahemla.  

In fact in the name Zarahemla we are given a key to the understanding of this portion of the covenant treaty.  In Hebrew the word zara means seed or children.  The portion 'hemla' appears to be a phonetic spelling of the word chaim meaning life.  When put together we see these records comprising the portion of God's Covenant that instructs us on the order/patter/image of the seed or the children of life- even the children of Christ.

In The Book of Mosiah we see God declaring himself again through his Messenger to King Benjamin who is the servant King to the people in the Land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 3:2-3).  His reign and words are reminiscent of Moses and a type and shadow of Christ who was yet to come. In King Benjamin’s address he confirms the covenant hierarchy and mediation through the Son of God. In Mosiah 3 the covenant hierarchy is established with the Son of God being declared as the Ruler and Mediator of the Covenant.  King Benjamin establishes the people as a covenant people like Moses did with the Children of Israel along with his role in the hierarchy established by God for the Nephites as a Servant King.  We are shown the opposing hierarchy of the corrupt King Noah and his system of priestcraft as a comparison to God’s righteous system through King Noah. 

Like the incident of the Golden Calf we are given various accounts of covenant rebellion and restoration to covenant. In the accounts of the Sons of Mosiah, Alma the Younger, Korihor, Nehor, the Zoramites, etc we are shown the rebellion of the people as they attempt to establish and maintain their counterfeit systems of Sovereignty and Hierarchy as opposed to the pillars of Sovereignty and Hierarchy in God's covenant.   Like ancient Israel who sought to establish their own order through a a golden medium, we are shown similar forms of rebellion and idolatry whether it be priest-craft, lawyer-craft, or king-craft.  Following the inclination of the natural man, they wanted a god they could manipulate. Here we find King Benjamin’s address which teaches his people how to fulfill the Commandments of God at Sinai.  We also see a reiteration of the Commandments of God given at Sinai by Abinadi and a covenant lawsuit against King Noah, his priests, and the people in the Land of Nephi.  We find several Exodus accounts in King Mosiah I and in Alma’s people.

The Fall of Adam altered man’s position with God as his Covenant Representative on Earth to build up and establish his Kingdom/righteous dominion over the face of the Earth.   To bring man back into a perfect condition with him and once again establish man as his covenant image or representative on earth, God then erects the second Covenant Pillar- Hierarchy and Mediation. 

Even as Adam was created to be in the image of God, Christ as the second Adam is also begotten in the image of God.  As the image of God on Earth, Christ makes his Father’s kingdom visible to men. He is the covenant representative of the Father in whom the perfect image of the Father resides.  As THE SON OF GOD all power and authority is given to him.  He is root from which the trunk of the tree of life grows and to which all other branches connect for life and salvation.  He is the pinnacle of the Hierarchy established by the Father to which all other delegated authorities account.

Joseph Smith expressed this same principle of covenant hierarchy in the Lectures on Faith:

“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things—by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space—They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;—he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh—and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer, or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be…The Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power and fulness: Filling all in all—the Son being filled with the fulness of the Mind, glory and power, or, in other words, the Spirit, glory and power of the Father—possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom: sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father—a Mediator for man—being filled with the fulness of the Mind of the Father, or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.” (Lectures on Faith 3:2)


As an expression of covenant prayer, the opening of the Lord's prayer could aptly summarize the first pillar of the covenant, "Our Father which art in Heaven may your name be Set Apart."

In Israelite culture a person’s name was more than just a means of identification such as Tom, Dick, or Harry as it is today. A person’s name was a description of who they were-their character and attributes.  Like a wife to her husband, the phrase "take upon the name", was an expression that a wife had not only taken on the outward name of her husband but had become "one" with her husband by embodying her husbands love, law, and instructions. The husband prepared a home or "sacred space" for his bride and out of the desire to be one she filled the home with life.  

Unlike many of our homes today where the image of God's covenant order has become distorted or abused, God's home or sacred space is a place where love is the rule because his commandments are honored.  The rules of the house set up by the husband (God) establish the protective boundaries and defenses that allow his family to grow in strength and righteousness.  Without these protective boundaries and defenses predators enter in, defile his sacred space, and his home and children are destroyed. 

The Holy or Set Apart Condition of God's Name (his laws, character, and attributes) expresses the awesomeness of our God (YHVH).  As He revealed himself to the Fathers-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob-- He also revealed his name to the Book of Mormon Fathers. Because of the love and mercy of God the Fathers prevailed with God because of their trust and loyalty to him.  As a result, those promises also extend to the posterity of the Fathers.  It is for us to lay covenant claim upon those promises by walking the same path of covenant loyalty that they did. 

When we uphold and establish God's covenant pattern or order in our lives by establishing his commandments, his character, and attributes in our lives, we take upon his Name as did the Fathers.  When we organize and create the society that exists in Heaven here on Earth we set apart his Name.  When the image of God is engraved in our hearts as he engraved his commandments upon tablets of stone, we commence creating the sacred space for his presence to return.

The establishment of God's Kingdom begins and ends with the establishment of his name (laws, character, and attributes).  The establishment of the second covenant pillar begins by taking upon the name of the King and becoming one with him by embodying is commandments, character, and attributes.  We see an example of this with Moses, "Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord;  And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. I am the Lord God Almighty; the Lord JEHOVAH. And was not my name known unto them? Yea, and I have also established my covenant with them, which I made with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers." (JST Exodus 6:1-4)

We see the same pattern with King Benjamin, "And moreover, I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out, except it be through transgression." (Mosiah 1:11-12)

 Even as the name of God (his commandments, character, and attributes) becomes engraven upon the fleshy tablets of our hearts constitutes the establishment of his kingdom both in individuals and a community, rebellion and abandonment of his commandments, character and attributes constitutes the blotting out (the losing of covenant status and the ensuing judgments) of a people.


Just as the first pillar of God's covenant relationship can be expressed in the phrase, "Our Father which art in Heaven--Hallowed be thy Name."  The second pillar of the covenant could be expressed in the phrase, "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven. The second pillar of God's covenant establishes the order of his house--or Kingdom Order. It is THE PATTERN that all other relationships in God's kingdom are modeled after. Whether it be our spiritual relationship with Him, the relationship of marriage with our spouse, our relationships with our children, or our relationships with our neighbors, all eternal relationships in God's kingdom are smaller or greater copies of this one eternal pattern.  By establishing his kingdom pattern God gives us the pattern that every other relationship that exists in his kingdom. The Foundation of this pillar is laid in the deliverance of his people or bride.

The Second Pillar of the Covenant:  Kingdom Order and Mediation

The word order often evokes images of organized corporate systems such as are found in the military, a large business corporation, or an organized system of religion.  While many have often had four letter word experiences with various systems of order, the idea of order is not a four letter word- especially when it comes to God's Kingdom Order.  By establishing the order of God's Kingdom in our lives we establish the conduit through which Heaven and Earth interact with each other.  It also establishes the pattern of the Kingdom of God with Christ as King and Mediator of the covenant along with the social order he seeks to establish in his kingdom.

Just as the Book of Genesis establishes the covenant pillar of God's Sovereignty, in the Book of Exodus we see God establishing his Kingdom Order beginning with himself as God,” Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)  We also see the establishment of an order of Judges elected from among the body of the people in Exodus 18.  We see Moses established as a mediator between the presence of God and the Children of Israel in Exodus 19.  We see the Children of Israel reject the sovereignty of God by attempting to obtain God’s glory and presence through a medium-the golden calf- and the resulting rebellion. 

Jesus Christ – Prophet, Priest and King

This Covenant Pillar is erected in our lives when we acknowledge and uphold Jesus Christ as the sole authority from the Father who is in the express image of the Father.  Like the royal archway of the temple of God, He is THE PROPHET, PRIEST, AND KING.

He is THE PROPHET because he is THE WORD OF THE FATHER,” For in the beginning was the Word, even the Son, who is made flesh, and sent unto us by the will of the Father. And as many as believe on his name shall receive of his fullness. And of his fullness have all we received, even immortality and eternal life, through his grace. “ (JST John 1:16)

He is THE PRIEST because HE is the fulfillment of the LAW, “And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new. Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.” (3 Nephi 15:3-5) As a true priest correctly interpreted and performed the commandments (the definition of fulfilled in Israelite understanding) given by God therefore it has accomplished its purpose.

He is THE KING because ALL POWER AND AUTHORITY HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO HIM IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

King Benjamin – A Type and Shadow of Christ

Following in the path of the Holy Order of God, King Benjamin serves as an example of a righteous Prophet, Priest, and King who stands in the image of Christ to his People.  As a Prophet he delivered the word of God that God declared unto him by a holy messenger to declare to his people.  As a priest he correctly interpreted and performed the law (Hebrew: fulfilled the law) among his people.  As a King, he exemplified the image of Christ as the Greatest Among Us -and yet the servant of all:

“Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.  Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.  And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.  Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?” (Mosiah 2:15-18)

God’s Covenant Hierarchy – Sons and Daughters of God

The institutions of the World and Hierarchies established in the image of men, however well intentioned, are examples of counterfeit covenant constructs whereby men lift themselves above not only one another but above the rightful covenant ruler who is God.   As King of Heaven and Earth, God is the Father of All and his covenant subjects are his children:  

”And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.  And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:6-7)

It is the natural man who seeks to lift himself above his brother, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

Office and apostleship do not exempt one from the fallen nature. The consistency of man’s fallen nature was found among his own disciples in Jerusalem.  Even among his closest disciples we see the covenant hierarchy of the natural man as opposed to the hierarchy of Christ– The Prototype of the Saved Man:

“What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave-For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:21-28)


The establishment of God's Kingdom commences with the deliverance of his people and the proclaiming of his NAME.  In declaring the NAME of Jesus Christ, God establishes not only the identity of the King, but also proclaims the commandments, character, and attributes of the King.  The citizens of the kingdom in guarding and embodying the commandments, character, and attributes of the King become the children of the King--or the Children of Christ. Establishing the NAME brings forth the blessings of Heaven by erecting the framework of the temple (or sacred space) so that a place may be prepared for the presence of God to inhabit. Abandoning the commandments, character, or attributes of the King constitutes a form of covenant treason or rebellion causing the curses of the covenant to be poured out.

Christ is our King.  He is the greatest among us even as he was the servant of all.  He who had life within himself gave his life so that those with no life may have life in them. The King and the establishment of his name constitute the foundation of his Kingdom.

Coming Soon - Part 2B

The Framework of the Kingdom Revealed, What does the framework prepare us for? The Types of Covenant Rebellion.

Sunday, November 1, 2015



The Song of Redeeming Love is the first recorded song of praise in the Bible. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that this song of redeeming love was sung on the night of Passover:

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. (Isaiah 30:29)

This song was sung by Moses as they left slavery in Egypt. It is a song of hope and faith as Israel looked to God after his promised deliverance from Egypt and the armies of Pharaoh.  This song that was sung by the Red Sea was so precious to Israel that even to this day this song is still sung and remembered by Israel. It is a song of celebration and awe at God's delivering right hand.  It is perhaps one of the greatest songs ever written. In the book of Revelation it becomes not only the song of Moses but the victory song of the Messiah who has brought each one of us out of slavery to sin and praises Him as the author of life and salvation.

The Song of Redeeming Love

To Sing the Song one must first know what the song is.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
    into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him—
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him!

The Lord is a warrior;
    Yahweh is his name!

Pharaoh’s chariots and army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The finest of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.

The deep waters gushed over them;
    they sank to the bottom like a stone.

“Your right hand, O Lord,
    is glorious in power.
Your right hand, O Lord,
    smashes the enemy.

 In the greatness of your majesty,
    you overthrow those who rise against you.
You unleash your blazing fury;
    it consumes them like straw.

At the blast of your breath,
    the waters piled up!
The surging waters stood straight like a wall;
    in the heart of the sea the deep waters became hard.

“The enemy boasted, ‘I will chase them
    and catch up with them.
I will plunder them
    and consume them.
I will flash my sword;
    my powerful hand will destroy them.’

But you blew with your breath,
    and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
    in the mighty waters.

“Who is like you among the gods, O Lord—
    glorious in holiness,
awesome in splendor,
    performing great wonders?

You raised your right hand,
    and the earth swallowed our enemies.

“With your unfailing love you lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your might, you guide them
    to your sacred home.

The peoples hear and tremble;
    anguish grips those who live in Philistia.
The leaders of Edom are terrified;
    the nobles of Moab tremble.
All who live in Canaan melt away;
    terror and dread fall upon them.
The power of your arm
    makes them lifeless as stone
until your people pass by, O Lord,
    until the people you purchased pass by.

You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain—
    the place, O Lord, reserved for your own dwelling,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.

The Lord will reign forever and ever!”

(Exodus 15)


The Book of Mormon is a covenant record for our time and land.  Like Alma's Church we are living in a day of Iniquity when the Iniquity has not only infiltrated the Church but also the hearts of the people.  We see sin and lawlessness enthroned while holiness and righteousness are shunned and scorned. But, for those whose hearts have been pricked by the message of the Everlasting Gospel, the Book of Mormon turns us from the path of covenant rebellion to the path of covenant oneness with God.  To see this path requires a change of heart--a desire to be free from the bondage of sin and iniquity.  To walk this path requires the intervention of Jesus Christ-the right hand of God.

In true Passover (Pesach) tradition demonstrated in Alma Chapter 5, Alma draws upon an ancient song of praise that has been preserved by Israel to this day.  He draws the peoples minds to the captivity of their "fathers". In true Israelite fashion, he turns the minds of Zarahemla (The Descendants or Seed of Life) back to the captivity of their fathers even Israel in Egypt and also their fathers --the people of King Noah in captivity to the Lamanites in the Land of Nephi.

" I, Alma, having been consecrated by my father, Alma, to be a high priest over the church of God, he having power and authority from God to do these things, behold, I say unto you that he began to establish a church in the land which was in the borders of Nephi; yea, the land which was called the land of Mormon; yea, and he did baptize his brethren in the waters of Mormon. And behold, I say unto you, they were delivered out of the hands of the people of king Noah, by the mercy and power of God.

 And behold, after that, they were brought into bondage by the hands of the Lamanites in the wilderness; yea, I say unto you, they were in captivity, and again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word; and we were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also.And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them. And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved." (Alma 5:3-9)


When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.  Like a shepherd, Moses led the children of Israel to the Mountain of the Lord where God himself dwelt. Even so Alma calls us to heed the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ:

"O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd." (Alma 5: 37-38)

When we are in a state of covenant rebellion our sins become as if it were the captivity of our Fathers. Outside the bounds of God's covenant relationship and kingdom is a world of trials and tribulation. Like the trials and tribulations of Egypt, the conditions of covenant rebellion place us under the dominion of our adversary. Make no mistake, the kingdom of trials and tribulations is powerful and seeks to rival the kingdom of God himself.  The chains of this kingdom are real and like Pharaoh's armies they seek to encircle us with the bands of death, hell, and destruction.

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Book of Mormon – A Covenant Roadmap to Zion (Part 1)


The works and words of the Lord are Great and Marvelous.  Indeed, there are great revelations of light and truth before our very eyes written in plainness.  Because of tradition and transgression, we often find ourselves without the light of truth and our minds become darkened:

“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.  And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” (D&C 84:54-58)

How many times have we heard the admonition to read the Book of Mormon?  How many times have we read it?  How many times do we have to read it until we get it?  These may seem like simplistic questions, but perhaps the challenge we face is not reading the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, over and over again, but reading it with covenant eyeglasses.  Instead of reading it in a linear/Greek fashion let us examine the Book of Mormon as a NEW COVENANT.

Our modern American culture is so foreign to that of the writers of the Book of Mormon that we are missing the importance and details of their message that were meant to be communicated.  The prophet-writers of the Book of Mormon were Israelites.  Their account follows the language and culture of ancient Israel.  Like the Torah (Five Books of Moses), the Book of Mormon follows the pattern of a covenant treaty.   If we approach the Book of Mormon from this paradigm, we will find that we have been given a layered message with the heart of the message being the specific instructions on how to be reconciled to Christ, come into his presence,  and to become a Zion people.

Ancient Israelite Covenant relationships and treaties can be identified on the basis of certain principles or pillars that establish the covenant treaty and govern the relationship.  If God as the King is the grantor of the covenant then as such he establishes the terms of the covenant.  We as the recipient of the covenant, (and as a lesser being), are only in a position to either accept or reject the covenant relationship and the terms.  Once accepted the terms become binding.  Loyalty to the King and obedience to the terms brings blessings.  Disloyalty to the King and transgression of the terms brings covenant curses. 

What we are after is the "Heart" of the Covenant. As once the seed that God desires to plant in our hearts takes root, we receive the name of Christ/Messiah and conform to his image.  Having conformed to his image we are then able to produce the fruits that God desires us to bring forth. These words are not just symbolic but literal. Our God is a covenant making and keeping God. His Kingdom or righteous dominion is established and governed by covenant. Those who would enter by some other way are "thieves and liars" because without the grant of a covenant they have no claim on the promises God made to the Fathers.  With regard to the Book of Mormon, the fathers we are speaking of are Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, down to Omni.  Their record comprises God's revelation of himself and a declaration of his sovereignty:

 6 And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly. (God's Revelation of Himself)

 7 And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.

 8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.(Declaration of God's Sovereignty), (1 Nephi 1) 


While at first glance this revelation of God to Lehi and the visionary declaration of his sovereignty may seem self evident and simplistic, this testimony of Father Lehi establishes the identity of God (i.e. the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and declares his majesty and power through a Heavenly Vision of God sitting upon his throne surrounded by concourses of mighty ones.  Just as Lehi sees God at the center of all creation so too does Joseph Smith declare a revelation of God and his sovereignty:

"We here observe that God is the only supreme governor, and independent being, in whom all fulness and perfection dwells; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift, and every good principle dwells; and that he is the Father of lights: In him the principle of faith dwells independently; and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings centers, for life and salvation." (Lectures on Faith 2:2)


In Hebrew the word for faith is more than just mental belief.  Aman/Emunah which is translated as faith/faithfulness denotes trusting loyalty and dependence upon God.  In the Hebraic sense faith is not that I merely believe that God exists, but that he exists and I trust him, am loyal to him, and recognize my dependence upon him like a wife to a husband, a child to their father, or a servant to a King.  If as Father Lehi states that God is in the center surrounded by concourses of angels and "...he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings centers, for life and salvation." then this record of Nephi is our Genesis or the Beginning of our Faith in that it establishes the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at our center and to whom we are placing our trust, our loyalty, and our dependence upon in all things. 


Just as the Book of Genesis establishes the first pillar or foundation of Israel's covenant relationship with God, so too does the record of the Book of Mormon Fathers establish the foundation of our covenant relationship with God in this land.  As a “New Covenant” we would expect that the Book of Mormon would contain its own Genesis.  The first six books of the book of Mormon comprise the “Genesis” of the Book of Mormon. In true covenant pattern, the books of Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and Omni establish the first pillar of the New Covenant.  In God’s revelation of himself to Lehi and Nephi we see the covenant declaration of himself as God and the God of their Fathers-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We see in these records an account of God’s dealings with the Book of Mormon Fathers (Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, etc.) just as Genesis gives us an account of God’s dealings with the Fathers of the Children of Israel.  Like Genesis, this first portion taken from the Plates of Nephi establish the promises God made to the Book of Mormon Fathers, the history and beginnings of their covenant,  and their covenant land of promise as their inheritance in the Americas.   


Notice that the covenant of Lehi is derivative of Israel's covenant relationship with the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph), which is why he goes to lengths to point out that he is a descendant of Joseph (one of the Fathers to whom God made covenant with in the Book of Genesis):

"And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine." (1 Nephi 5:14)

Lehi points this out because as all covenant relationships have a beginning, God also establishes the eternal continuity of the covenant through the posterity of the one to whom he made Covenant.  We see this established by God's promises to Adam and Eve and their seed, God's promises to Enoch and his Seed, God's promises to Abraham and his seed, and now Lehi and his seed. 

These first records included by Mormon are essential in establishing our covenant relationship with God because not only does it reveal to us the identity of God and him as the sole object of our faith/loyalty, but in includes the historical records of the PROMISES God made to the Book of Mormon Fathers in specific regard to this covenant land grant  - AMERICA- and the people who reside on it. These records serve not only as a legal declaration of treaty between God and Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, and Enos, but they contain the actual historical setting and promises God made to them and all those who reside in this land. 


The promises made by God to the Book of Mormon Fathers are many.  In fact so many that there is not the space here to fully enumerate them.  But here are a few to start:

…And because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!” (1 Nephi 1: 14)

…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (1 Nephi 1:20)

And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. (1 Nephi 2: 20)

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

4And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying, “I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision, I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren. 5But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 5:4-5)

16And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records. 17And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed— 18that these Plates of Brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed. 19Wherefore, he said that these Plates of Brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed. (1 Nephi 5:16-19)

17And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God— and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come— I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. 18For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. 19For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; Wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:17-19)


This is why it is essential for our covenant future and that of our children to search these first records to identity the promises God has established in this legal treaty.  Without a knowledge of these promises we have no hope.  Hope in an Israelite mind is not wishful thinking, but it is the expectation based on a PROMISE, therefore without a knowledge of these promises we have no idea what we are to expect in this covenant relationship.  The historical record of the Book of Mormon Fathers demonstrates that a covenant keeping God made them promises and promises to their posterity and others in regard to this land.  They also demonstrate a fulfillment of these promises to them as each of the Fathers obtained a fulfillment of the promises by receiving the revelation of God and his Messiah, being delivered out of tribulation in their wilderness, and obtaining a land of promises (among many other things).

Walking in the Covenant

God having revealed himself to the Fathers and establishing his sovereignty over all things establishes the first pillar of our covenant relationship.  We are then presented with a choice will we accept his rule and pledge our loyalty to him as the center of our faith?  As we go down into the waters of baptism we make a formal declaration of our loyalty and our intent to obey the God of our Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos). Having made a declaration of our acceptance of him and our loyalty to him, we must then search diligently in record of the Fathers to identify the promises God made to them and us as the recipients of their record.  

Once we have identified the promises made, the journey really begins. We must lay hold upon the promises-- or in other words we must make a claim for the promises.  God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him. (Acts 10:43) As a covenant relationship is bound by legal terms, we must also make legal requests under the covenant.  In other words, we have to ask for the promises to be fulfilled.  

In ancient Israel, there was a protocol of prayer that has been preserved in what is called the Amidah. The pattern of this mode or practice of prayer can be seen in what we call The Lord's Prayer.  In every case from Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Nehemiah this type of prayer can be seen.  To make a long story short in regard to this ancient patter of prayer, The Fathers literally prayed the promises.  Like a servant supplicating to a King or a child to a Father, they acknowledged the Sovereignty of God and requested a fulfillment of his promises to them based on the covenant God made with the Fathers.  In all requests, though, they submitted themselves to his will and authority, "Not my will but they will be done."  They did not ask frivolous items or demonstrations of special effects of God's powers.  Everything was requested to do one thing become one (echad) with God and to establish his Kingdom according to his will on earth. 

Making a covenant request or asking God to fulfill his promises is not only possible, but it is commanded, "O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires." (Ether 3:2)

  We must ask under the terms he sets out in that relationship.  The first term being that He is God and He is Sovereign.  We can then make a covenant request for his promises or to make promises to us under that relationship.  We uphold his righteous dominion in our submission to him-"Not my will but thy will be done!" We ask in the name of Christ or as it is understood in Hebraic terms, we ask to fulfill his commandments, to establish his kingdom, and to conform our hearts to his image. 


Let us set aside our traditions and transgressions and honor God by approaching him the relationship that he established with the Fathers and which he sealed by his own blood.  As we do our minds will be filled with light and truth and our veil of unbelief will be rent.  This is only the first part or step in our covenant journey, but without this foundation we would find ourselves faint and weary in our journey.  We must place God in the Throne at the center of our Holy of Holies.  We must exercise our loyalty to him based on his character and attributes with our expectations of the fulfillment of his promises. It is only then that we can walk forward in our covenant journey and bring forth the fruits of righteousness.

Pillar 1 -The Sovereignty of God - God is the Center and Author of our Faith

"Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto ME the fountain of all righteousness." (Ether 12:28)

1.  God is God-- and you are not!
2.  Faith is trusting loyalty and dependence upon God.  Are you loyal to God?
2.  Hope is our expectation based on his promises.  What are the Promises of God so I know what to expect?

 The Second Pillar of the Covenant. (part 2).